About 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency workers are preparing to begin job action across the country on Friday and say travellers should expect long lineups and lengthy delays at border crossings and airports.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union, which represent the workers, said that it served a strike notice to the government on Tuesday and is now readying its workers to up the ante.
If a contract isn’t reached by 6 a.m. Friday, the union said its members will begin a “sweeping” series of actions at Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations.
“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract with the government,” said Chris Aylward, the union’s national president, in a release.
“Treasury Board and CBSA have been clear they aren’t prepared to address critical workplace issues at CBSA at the bargaining table.”
The Treasury Board of Canada said the federal government made a formal request Tuesday for the federal labour relations body to appoint a mediator. It said it has confirmed one will be appointed.
“The Government of Canada has great respect for border services officers and the important work that they do and remains committed to reaching agreements with all bargaining agents that are fair to employees, mindful of today’s economic and fiscal context and reasonable for Canadian taxpayers,” reads a statement from the Treasury Board of Canada
“The Government of Canada has reached agreements covering 95 per cent of the federal unionized workforce for this round of bargaining and is confident that an offer has been put forward that provides a reasonable basis on which to reach an agreement.”
Ninety per cent of frontline border workers have been identified as essential so they will continue to offer services, if there is a strike, said the CBSA, in an email.
The CBSA “will respond quickly to any job action/work disruption in order to maintain the safety and security of our border, ensure compliance with our laws, and keep the border open to legitimate travellers and goods,” said spokesperson Jacqueline Callin.
The dispute comes as Canada is preparing to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit without having to quarantine starting Aug. 9 and will open the country’s borders to travellers from other countries with the required doses of a COVID-19 shot on Sept. 7.