A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) sign is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. A union representing Canadian Border Service Agency staff says more than 9,000 personnel will start voting next week on whether they should go on strike. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) sign is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. A union representing Canadian Border Service Agency staff says more than 9,000 personnel will start voting next week on whether they should go on strike. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Border security workers to hold strike votes next week, jeopardizing border reopening

Workers without contract for nearly three years

Some 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency workers are preparing for strike votes starting next week, even as Canada-U.S. border reopening talks get underway.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada union said Thursday that its 5,500 border services officers, 2,000 headquarters staff and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in inland enforcement jobs will begin strike votes on Wednesday, which will then continue throughout the month.

The workers, employed by the CBSA and Treasury Board, have been without a contract for nearly three years and say talks broke off between the two sides in December.

The union and the employers have been unable to agree on better protections for staff that the union argues would bring them in line with other law enforcement personnel across Canada and address a “toxic” workplace culture.

“CBSA employees have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one; keeping our borders safe, screening travellers for COVID-19 and clearing vital vaccine shipments,” said PSAC’s national president, Chris Aylward, in a release.

“Our members have stepped up for Canadians, but now it’s time for the government to step up for them.”

The office of the president of the Treasury Board said in an email that it has the “greatest respect” for border officers and is disappointed the union rejected a “fair” offer that included wage adjustments.

“We remain committed to reaching agreements with all bargaining agents that are fair to employees, mindful of today’s economic and fiscal context and reasonable for Canadians,” the statement said.

“Out of respect for the collective bargaining process, we will not comment further on negotiations.”

PSAC’s strike talk comes as New York congressman Brian Higgins said Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden will discuss plans to reopen the Canada-U.S. border at the G7 summit this week.

The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began and officials scrambled to lock down their countries and stop the spread of the virus through travel.

As vaccination efforts have increased significantly since then, politicians including Higgins have been pushing for the border to reopen.

The latest border closure will remain in place until June 21.

As the deadline nears, PSAC and the alliance’s Customs and Immigration Union have been urging the government to resolve the issues that could push their members to strike.

The unions said they met with Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, urging them to return to the table with a new mandate to avoid a labour dispute that could impact travellers at the border.

“We’re ready and willing to return to the table to negotiate a fair contract that recognizes our commitment to Canadians,” said CIU national president Jean-Pierre Fortin in a statement.

“But we’re fed up with the disrespect our members have been shown by the employer.”

When asked about the matter, Blair’s office directed questions to the CBSA, which said it will respond quickly to any job action in order “to maintain the security of our border, ensure compliance with our laws, and keep the border open to legitimate travellers and goods.”

“We expect that our officers will continue to fulfil their duties with the highest level of integrity and professionalism,” it wrote in an email.

As the two parties try to resolve their issues, they are waiting to receive recommendations from a public interest commission they appeared before in May to present arguments around compensation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

Border Services Officer

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Most Read