Manitoba trucker waits 5-hours to cross border during CBSA job action

WINNIPEG — The federal government might have reached a tentative deal with border guards on Friday, but not before a work-to-rule campaign caused major delays.

Garret Erskine is a truck driver who drives from Winnipeg to Grand Forks, ND, every weekday, meaning he passes through the Emerson-Pembina Border Crossing daily.

On Friday, Erksine was stuck trying to get home to Canada as border guards participated in a job action.

“The lineup when I entered at 4:23 p.m. was backed up to the town of Pembina on the interstate. I was stuck in that line for five hours,” said Erksine, who finally got back into the country at 9:36 p.m.

According to Erksine, the line snaked for about five kilometres along I-29.

“Because I do cross the border every day, I know delays and unforeseen circumstances are just part of my job as a truck driver, especially with the variable of the border,” said Erksine. “It was mostly frustrating because I didn’t get to see my kids that night.”

Erksine said he listened to music, audiobooks and podcasts to keep busy. He also went for several walks since traffic was at a near standstill.

“There were so many truck drivers lined up and it took so long that by the time we reached the booth, I was friends by the nearest five truck drivers that were in line with me. We would get out of our cabs and walk around to keep the blood flowing,” Erksine said.

While Erksine was in line, the federal government and the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union were able to strike a deal.

The four-year tentative agreement, which dates back to 2018, provides CBSA employees with an average wage increase of more than two per cent a year, the union said in a statement.

It also provides what the union calls better protection against “excessive discipline” in the workplace, a national committee to address “workplace culture problems,” as well as paid meal allowances for uniformed members.

The deal also includes a suite of improvements to leave and allowance provisions, including handling of grievances, a domestic-violence clause and a promise to work towards early-retirement benefits for employees.

As for Erksine, he’s happy he longer has to wait in line, but the job action doesn’t sit well with him.

“It’s a relief in terms of my own convenience,” he said. “They held Canada basically hostage, so that’s pretty frustrating to see. Me as a taxpayer gets to pay for that.”

-With files from The Canadian Press


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