Following “a 36-hour, round-the-clock, marathon negotiation session,” unions representing almost 9,500 employees of the Canada Border Services Agency late Friday announced they have reached a tentative agreement with the federal government.
The agreement puts an end to the sweeping work-to-rule job action launched on Friday morning and ensures the flow of traffic will return to normal for the long-awaited reopening of the border set to take place on Monday.
3-5 Hour Commercial Wait-Times
Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward said the negotiations were helped by “intense pressure” the work-to-rule action had put on the government “at every airport and border crossing across the country.”
A Canadian Press report described some of the delays experienced at key entry points:
Long lines of semi-trailer trucks snaked away from border points as the work-to-rule campaign slowed traffic to a crawl, particularly for commercial shippers, while marathon negotiations that began Thursday stretched through night and day.
Reported commercial wait times for truckers at the Pacific Bridge in Surrey, B.C., reached more than five hours as the afternoon wore on, while regular travellers looking to get into Saskatchewan faced similarly long delays at the North Dakota entry point in the town of Portal.
At the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ont., trucks were being held up for more than three hours, much as they were at the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ont., and the city of Buffalo. At Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge, both trucks and passenger vehicles faced similar delays.
Resolving Long-Standing Issues
The four-year tentative agreement provides CBSA employees with an average wage increase of more than 2% a year, retroactive to 2018 (when the last long-term contract ended) along with a new, pensionable, annual meal period allowance of $5,000 payable to all those in uniform.
The deal includes new improvements to leave and allowance provisions, including streamlined handling of grievances, a domestic-violence clause, and a commitment to consider enhanced early retirement benefits under the public service pension plan.
Additionally, the agreement also provides new disciplinary protections and calls for the creation of a National Joint Committee to tackle “workplace culture problems” at CBSA.
A statement by the Treasury Board said the “offer recognizes the important work of border services officers” and described it as “a reasonable deal, situated in the economic reality of the country,”
Customs and Immigration Union president Mark Weber said the agreement acknowledges the hard work that members have been engaged in since long before the onset of the pandemic.
“Finally — after three years of negotiations — we’ve resolved long-standing issues that will go a long way towards making CBSA a better, safer place to work for our members,” Weber said.
PSAC-CIU says that a copy of the new agreement and contractual language will be provided to members over the coming weeks once it has been fully translated. The unions’ bargaining team has unanimously recommended that the new agreement be ratified.