Border officers start working tirelessly as negotiations with government continue

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Border services officers have started working to the end as unions and the government continue to negotiate a new contract.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) tweeted this morning that negotiations went on overnight and into the early hours of the morning, but no deal has yet been reached.

“In the meantime, rule-making actions have started across the country,” the tweet said.

While operating under forced labor, border officials could stop collecting taxes and duties, ask travelers more questions than usual, and completely inspect truck manifests, slowing processing times .

Union members – who have been without contracts since June 2018 – include border services officers at airports, land ports of entry, seaports and commercial points of entry, law enforcement officers at inland, intelligence officers, investigators, commercial agents, hearing officers and non-uniformed members.

A spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat told CBC negotiations are still ongoing and the government “is still at the table and will not back down.”

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos tweeted Friday morning that he was “proud of the work of our negotiating team”.

“They have been at the table all night and we still hope to come to a fair and reasonable deal,” he said.

The PSAC and the Customs and Immigration Union (SDI) represent approximately 8,500 border workers. The rule-based work action will see border officers perform only the minimum amount of work required by their contracts.

The strike of calm comes just days before Canada begins to ease border restrictions for fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents entering Canada for non-essential purposes.

This change will take effect on Monday, August 9.

Union members voted in favor of the strike at the end of July. Unions are mainly fighting for three things: pay equity with other law enforcement workers in Canada, better protections against harassment and discrimination, and a remote work policy for non-uniformed members.

The strike would have a “dramatic impact” on the reopening of the border and on Canada’s supply chains, the unions have warned.

The border will remain open, as 90 percent of border officials have been identified as essential workers. However, travelers can expect long lines and delays at airports and border crossings, unions say.

A union support sign representing border service workers is displayed in a vehicle near the Ambassador Bridge on Friday August 6. (Katerina Georgieva / CBC)

A PSAC spokesperson told CBC that the catch-up action will continue until a deal is reached.

CBSA Vice President Denis Vinette told CBC the work measure is likely to cause delays at the border and travelers should expect longer waits.

“We will take all possible measures to make sure we maintain the flow as best we can and adjust accordingly,” said Vinette.

Several crossings are experiencing delays

A number of crossings experienced delays on Friday, with some waiting times exceeding the two-hour mark, according to the CBSA website.

Truck driver David Ferreira reported this morning from the Ambassador Bridge that traffic has slowed at a breakneck pace.

The Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario. and Detroit is the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States, carrying a quarter of all trade between the two countries.

Ferreira said crossing the bridge typically takes 15-20 minutes, but he waited half an hour and predicted it could take three.

“We are moving slightly here a bit, but due to the strike here the traffic has backed up and crossed the bridge to the highway,” he said.

“We will ask if you have any pets, plants, meat, animal products, if you have a pet with you, if you have a vaccination certificate,” Howe said.

Rakesh Naidu, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the free flow of goods and services would be affected by actions to promote employment.

“Even though the border may not be completely closed, it will cause delays and the delays will cost us dearly,” Naidu said.

Frontier Duty Free Association executive director Barbara Barrett said duty-free store owners are concerned about how it will affect travel once Canada’s border opens to American travelers next week – especially since stores have had virtually no activity throughout the pandemic due to the border closure.

“It’s kind of like a kick in the stomach when we’re already on the ground,” she said.



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