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CBSA workers vote in favour of strike action, warn of border disruptions | Globalnews.ca

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Canada Border Services Agency employees could go on strike as early as next month and cause “significant disruptions” during the busy travel season.

It’s the latest threat in a widening labour dispute between Ottawa and Canada’s largest unions, which have warned the government to prepare for a “summer of discontent.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents 9,000 CBSA employees, says 96 per cent of its members voted in favour of job action in June, but did not give an exact date.


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“Workers have been without a contract for over two years, yet Treasury Board and CBSA are still not prepared to negotiate an agreement that protects workers,” said PSAC president Chris Aylward in a statement Friday.

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The union says its key demands revolve around higher wages, remote work options and better retirement benefits. PSAC said mediation sessions are expected to begin June 3.


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The employer, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, said it “will do everything possible to reach a responsible and competitive agreement” but added many CBSA employees won’t be able to strike.


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“Canadians should know that 90 per cent of front-line border services employees are designated as essential, meaning they must continue providing services during a strike,” the Treasury Board said.

While essential CBSA workers can’t walk off the job, the union said Canadians will still feel the effects, highlighting a brief strike three years ago.

“Job action by CBSA personnel in 2021 nearly brought commercial cross-border traffic to a standstill, causing major delays at airports and borders across the country,” said PSAC in a statement.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the work CBSA does is “extremely important and extremely difficult” but would not comment on the union’s demands.

“The best labour agreements happen at the bargaining table,” Trudeau told reporters at a news conference in Halifax.

CBSA workers are part of a separate bargaining unit within PSAC.

The majority of members already reached an agreement with Ottawa last year, after a weeks-long strike.

But earlier this month, the union president accused the Treasury Board of negotiating in bad faith after it ordered federal workers to return to the office for three days a week instead of two.

At the time, Aylward was asked if the union would use CBSA employees – who are still in negotiations – as leverage.

“The Liberal government has to be prepared for a summer of discontent, whatever that looks like, whether it’s at the borders, whether it’s at the airports,” said the PSAC president on May 8.

But Treasury Board President Anita Anand said the right to hybrid work is not enshrined within the collective agreements.

“The government of Canada retained prerogative to determine the scope,” she added.

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