Border Reopening Could be Hampered by Looming Customs Strike

CBSA-PSAC Contract Negotiations

Trade Update • JUNE 29, 2021

As reported previously, the union representing more than 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency personnel has been conducting votes across the country in recent weeks to gauge support for potential strike action this summer.

Public Service Alliance of Canada members have been without a contract for nearly three years and negotiations between PSAC and the Canadian government broke off last December.

According to PSAC, the two sides have been unable to agree on better protections for staff that would address a “toxic” workplace culture and wage parity with other law enforcement personnel across Canada.

Why This is Happening Now

While noting that “a successful strike vote does not necessarily mean we will go on strike,” union officials said last week that the ballot was “going in the direction that we were hoping for.” An affirmative vote from 51% of union members is required to authorize job action.

PSAC national president Chris Aylward said the move was necessary because “CBSA won’t budge unless we apply organized pressure.”

Aylward told members earlier this month that “strong strike mandate is the best way to reach a settlement quickly, and without necessarily having to take strike action.” It would give union negotiators “the leverage they need because the Trudeau government will want to avoid a labour disruption — especially after the U.S. border has been closed for more than a year,” he explained, adding that “they can’t risk even more disruption while they’re in a minority government situation.”

As COVID-19 vaccination rates in both Canada and the U.S. continue increasing, so too have the demands from business leaders and others for the federal government to lift existing restrictions and fully reopen the border.

Next Steps

In the event of an affirmative strike vote, PSAC says it “will develop a plan and determine when, where and for how long strike actions will happen.” Job action could take the form of a “work-to-rule” slow down, rotating strikes at various locations, a strategic shutdown of key facilities, or a complete cessation of work in the case of a general strike.

Prior to any strike activity, the Treasury Board, which is the government entity responsible for contract negotiations, has indicated that an essential services agreement would be put in place.

“Employees identified as occupying essential positions are prohibited from participating in any strike and would continue to offer essential services in ports of entry,” the board advised.

Keeping You Informed

GHY will continue monitoring this developing situation and providing updates regarding possible commercial disruptions as more detailed information becomes available.

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