CBSA workers strike begins, border and airport delays likely

TORONTO — Nearly 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency workers have begun labour actions across the country, potentially causing lineups and delays at border crossings and airports just days before Canada is set to further reduce cross-border restrictions on fully-vaccinated U.S. travellers.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union, which represents the workers, confirmed on Twitter early on Friday that the job action had begun.

“Our FB bargaining team has been at the table all night, and we’re giving them a bit more time to negotiate,” the union said on Friday. “In the meantime, work-to-rule actions have started across the country. We’ll provide an update as soon as possible.”

The Treasury Board of Canada on Tuesday said the government had requested federal mediation to resolve the dispute, and the union confirmed in an email that a mediator had been involved in the overnight discussions.

Treasury Board spokesperson Geneviève Sicard said in an email on Friday that mediation had been ongoing through the night and was continuing.

“The government is still at the table and will not walk away,” she said. 

The union has been without a contract for three years, and said on Tuesday it would begin strike action if a new agreement was not reached by Friday. The union says it wants a new contract to include salary parity with other law enforcement workers and better protections against harassment, among other demands.

As the vast majority of border workers are considered essential workers, the union has said the job action will be a work-to-rule activity at the country’s airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports and postal facilities.

According to the union’s website, during a work-to-rule strike action CSBA employees “will obey all of the policies, procedures and laws applying to their work, and perform their duties to ’the letter of the law’. This may cause long and unavoidable delays at Canada’s borders as workers carry out their jobs as they were trained to do.”

Following the announcement, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport said in a Tweet that airport operations could be impact on Friday due to a peaceful labour demonstration by CSBA workers.

“If you are departing from Pearson today, please consider leaving early to account for potential delays,” it said.

The timing of the action is significant, as Canada prepares to open the border to fully-vaccinated U.S citizens and permanent residents on Monday.

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