On July 26, 2021, the Public Service Alliance of Canada – Customs and Immigration Union (PSAC-CIU) announced that its members have voted in favour of strike action. This follows after contract talks with the Canadian government broke down late in 2020. The plan is for the strike to take place starting August 6th. Lets take a look at how we got to this situation, what the issue is, and how the strike will affect international flows of shipments and people coming to Canada.
Members of the PSAC-CIU has been working without a contract since the last contract expired in June of 2018. Since then the Union has been unsuccessfully negotiating a new contract with the Canadian government. The Canadian government is represented at the negotiations by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Treasury Board of Canada. Talks have been held sporadically over the past few years and have typically ended in an impasse. In June of this year, due to the lack of progress in talks, Union issued notice to the membership that they were conducting a vote to seek a strike mandate. The membership voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike and notified the public of their intention to begin work to rule action as early as August 6, 2021.
The Union lists their goals for their next contract as follows;
* Close the wage gap with the broader law enforcement community
* Fix a toxic workplace culture at CBSA and improve work-life balance
* Ensure new rights and protections for border services officers
* Negotiate a sensible remote work policy for non-uniformed members
90% of employees at the Canada Border Services Agency are deemed an essential service. The law states they are unable to stop working, despite being in legal strike position. Essential workers are those that perform duties considered necessary to preserve public safety and health, as well as the basic functioning of society. They will make their voices heard in other ways since a strike is not an option.
In a press release, the Union said that the strike activity will take place at all Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations and could have a “dramatic impact” on Canada’s supply chain and the government’s plans to reopen the border to U.S. travelers on August 9. This means that importers and visitors to Canada will experience delays in processing. Shipments that would typically take 1 hour to clear may now take 3 hours. A family crossing the border will now be required to have each member of the family make their declaration. Previously 1 member of the family could make a declaration on behalf of everyone in the vehicle. The goal is to create enough hardship for the general public that it forces the government’s hand at the negotiating table.
After approximately 9 hours of job action amid scenes of long lines at land border crossings, an agreement was met. Based on early reports, the Union received approval on all their demands and the strike was called off. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the job action by CBSA employees or importing in general, please Contact Us.