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May 29, 2024

CBSA Strike: What It Means for Travel and Trade in Canada

Learn about the potential CBSA strike and its impact on Canadian travel and trade this summer. Stay informed and prepare accordingly.

This summer could see significant disruptions at Canadian ports of entry. More than 9,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) working for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action. This decision for a CBSA strike, made by a 96% majority during votes held from April 10 to May 23, 2024, signals potential challenges for the flow of goods, services, and people across Canadian borders.

Why is the CBSA Strike Happening?

The looming CBSA strike action reflects deep-seated dissatisfaction among employees who have been without a contract for over two years. Despite prolonged negotiations, the Treasury Board and CBSA have not agreed on a contract that addresses workers’ primary concerns. Key issues at the bargaining table include:

  1. Fair Wages: Workers are demanding salaries that are comparable to those of other law enforcement agencies in Canada.
  2. Flexible Work Options: There is a strong push for more flexible telework and remote work arrangements.
  3. Equitable Retirement Benefits: Employees seek retirement benefits that are fair and equitable.
  4. Stronger Protections: This includes better protections around discipline, technological changes, and working hours.

Chris Aylward, the National President of PSAC, emphasized that the strike mandate is a last resort but necessary to secure a fair contract. 

“Taking job action is always a last resort, but this strong strike mandate underscores that our members are prepared do what it takes to secure a fair contract,” he said. “Unless they want a repeat of 2021, Treasury Board and CBSA must be prepared to come to the table with a fair offer that addresses our key issues.”

The Impact of Potential Strike Action

The potential strike action by CBSA workers could have far-reaching consequences. Border services officers, who operate at airports, land entry points, marine ports, and commercial ports of entry, play a crucial role in maintaining the smooth flow of trade and travel. A strike could lead to:

  • Delays at Airports and Borders: Travellers could face longer wait times, potentially disrupting holiday plans and business travel.
  • Disruption of Trade: The movement of goods across borders could slow down, affecting businesses that rely on timely deliveries.
  • Economic Impact: Prolonged disruptions could have a ripple effect on the Canadian economy, particularly sectors dependent on international trade and tourism.

Mark Weber, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), highlighted the overwhelming response from workers. This strong mandate underscores the workers’ determination to fight for long-anticipated improvements.

“Our members’ response to this vote has been unprecedented – we extended the voting period to meet the overwhelming demand from workers,” Weber said. “We’re sending a clear message to the employer: we’re prepared to fight for fair wages, equitable retirement, and to make CBSA a better place to work.”

Upcoming Negotiations and Possible CBSA Strike in June

The last meeting between both parties was at a Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearing on April 22. The Commission’s report, expected before the mediation sessions beginning June 3, will be crucial in determining the next steps. Should the report fail to facilitate a resolution, PSAC-CIU will be in a legal strike position.

“We’re committed to reaching a fair contract that protects workers and improves working conditions for our members,” said Aylward. “As summer travel season nears, we hope the Trudeau Liberal government is making these negotiations a top priority. The window to avert a strike is closing quickly.”

Preparing for Possible Disruptions

For travellers and businesses, preparing for possible disruptions is essential. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Stay Informed: Keep updated with the latest news on the negotiations and potential strike action.
  • Plan Ahead: Allow extra time for travel and consider alternative routes or methods of transportation if possible.
  • Contact Authorities: For businesses, maintaining communication with CBSA and other relevant authorities can help navigate any challenges that arise.

The potential CBSA strike highlights the critical role these employees play in maintaining Canada’s borders. As negotiations continue, it is essential for all parties to work towards a fair resolution that addresses the workers’ concerns and ensures the smooth functioning of border services. The outcome of these talks will be pivotal in determining the impact on summer travel and trade across Canada.

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