VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Thousands of unionized Canada Border Services Agency workers are set to begin strike votes next week, potentially putting any reopening plans for the Canada-U.S. land border in question.
The unions representing border services officers, inland enforcement officers, headquarter staff, and others, say more than 9,000 employees have been without a new contract for nearly three years.
As such, the union workers will be conducting strike votes throughout the month across the country.
“CBSA employees have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one; keeping our borders safe, screening travelers for COVID-19 and clearing vital vaccine shipments,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president. “Our members have stepped up for Canadians, but now it’s time for the government to step up for them.”
The PSAC says talks between workers and their employer broke off in December, citing differences on several key issues. Negotiations with the CBSA and the Treasury Board have been ongoing since 2018.
Employees want “better protections for staff to address the toxic workplace culture at CBSA” and want pay that is on-par with other law enforcement staff across the country.
“We’re ready and willing to return to the table to negotiate a fair contract that recognizes our commitment to Canadians,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, Customs and Immigration Union national president. “But we’re fed up with the disrespect our members have been shown by the employer.”
Fortin assures this is not an opportunistic move, nor will it compromise security
“We’re certainly not trying to use the public and use the security aspect,” he said. “What we’re saying is you will see us way more in the media. We want to make sure that we are asking them to go back again.”
Both unions say they’ve met with the prime minister, public safety minister, and others to voice their concerns, urging them to come back to the table with a new contract to avoid any disruptions.
The Office of the President of the Treasury Board, which is the government entity responsible for contract negotiations issued a statement saying bargaining is ongoing.
“Our government has the greatest respect for border services officers and the important work that they do. We are disappointed that PSAC rejected a fair offer for its members at the Canada Border Services Agency that included wage adjustments and provisions in line with recent agreements reached with PSAC and other bargaining agents that cover over 88 per cent of public servants,” it reads.
“That said, 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 federal government is soon expected to announce its plans to reopen the Canada-U.S. border. On Wednesday, officials announced the upcoming easing of quarantine rules for fully vaccinated air travellers who are permitted to enter the country.