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Union for Canadian border employees votes to strike; travel from U.S. could be affected

A single lane is open and empty at a border crossing.
Exit lanes from Point Roberts, Wash., sit empty at the Canadian border entry station.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)

The union that represents about 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency employees has voted in favor of striking, which could affect travel between Canada and the United States.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union said Tuesday its members might strike as soon as Aug. 6, three days before fully vaccinated U.S. citizens will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks.

The union represents 5,500 border services officers, 2,000 headquarters staff and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in inland enforcement jobs.

Strike action could cause significant delays in courier and travel services, Chris Aylward, national president of Public Service Alliance of Canada, told reporters.

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“We’ve been in negotiations for over three years,” Aylward said, “but the employer has flat out refused to address critical workplace issues impacting our members.″

The union is now calling on Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and CBSA president John Ossowski to return to the bargaining table.

The union and the employers have been unable to agree on better protections for staff that the union argues would bring them in line with other law enforcement personnel across Canada and address a “toxic” workplace culture.

CBSA employees have been without a contract since 2017, and in that time, the union has been negotiating for protections against excessive discipline and harassment, whistle-blowing protections and remote-work provisions.

The union warns that the ongoing labor dispute could cause a significant disruption to the flow of goods, services and people entering Canada because traffic at borders may be slowed, while mail and the collection of duties and taxes will be affected.

On top of allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to visit Canada starting Aug. 9, the government also plans to open the country’s borders on Sept. 7 to travelers from other countries who are fully vaccinated.


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