WAITING GAME: Canada Border/Customs Strike Delay

Canada Border/Customs Strike Delay: Talks To Continue Through Next Week

Travellers and travel advisors don’t have to worry about a strike by Canadian Border Services Agency workers. At least not on the weekend.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing Canada Border Services Agency workers, had a set a strike deadline of 4 p.m. Eastern Time on 07JUN. But it posted a notice on Twitter/X around 4:09 p.m. ET stating that mediation will continue for several days.

“URGENT UPDATE: All strike action by 9,000 CBDS personnel is on hold until Wednesday (12JUN). Picket lines will not be in place until further notice.

More than 9,000 CBSA workers, out of a total of around 11,000, could ultimately be part of a job action should a strike occur, which could mean severe slowdowns at Canadian airports and border crossings.

PSAC officials said a strike could prove “very, very disruptive.”

“We are still hopeful that we can reach an agreement to avoid strike action and any potential delays at Canada’s borders,”  PSAC National President Sharon DeSousa said recently. “But the clock is ticking for Trudeau’s Liberal government to get to work on a fair contract for our members.”

Roughly 90% of border service workers are deemed essential employees and aren’t allowed to actually go on strike. But they can take part in job action during their non-work hours, and the union says things could get messy at Canadian airports and border crossings.

The CBC notes that potential job action could include “work to rule,” when employees could conceivably apply each and every one of their job’s rules and regulations.

“You can create tremendous lineups of those trucks and tremendous lineups of people,” said Ian Lee, an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business at Ottawa’s Carleton University. “It’ll be very, very disruptive if they do work-to-rule because so many people cross that border every day.”

The CBC also reports that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said that, under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, employees who are deemed essential must provide uninterrupted service and “cannot intentionally slow down border processing.”

Claire Fan, an economist with the Royal Bank of Canada, said in an interview with CTV’s News Channel on 06JUN that she expects the potential strike to have a spillover impact. Fan said auto manufacturers could see the biggest economic hit. Tourism and restaurants could also be hurt if travellers call off their trips as the travel season starts to ramp up.

“The clock is ticking for this matter to be resolved before our border crossings are severely disrupted and the billions of dollars of trade that flows through those border points are interrupted,” the Canadian Trucking Alliance warned on its website. “Delayed border crossings will reduce production in key employment industries, like the auto sector and others that rely on just-in-time goods deliveries, threatening the livelihood of thousands of Canadians.”

“PSAC members in the FB bargaining group have been without a contract for over two years,” PSAC states on its website. “Key issues in this round of bargaining include fair wages that are aligned with other law enforcement agencies across the country, flexible telework and remote work options, equitable retirement benefits for CBSA law enforcement personnel and stronger workplace protections.

“Job action by CBSA personnel in 2021 nearly brought commercial cross-border traffic to a standstill, causing major delays at airports and borders across the country and a marathon 36-hour bargaining session to reach an agreement,” PSAC said.

For now, worried travellers will just have to wait to see if history repeats itself.