CBSA employees agree to deal with government, ending day long strike action

CALGARY — After more than 36 hours of negotiations, the unions representing border guards and customs officers reached agreement on a deal with the government late Friday, ending an hours-old strike.

The news came shortly before 8 p.m. Friday evening, when the unions issued a release announcing that a deal had been reached.

The new contract means an end to a work-to-rule strike action that started Friday morning, in time to welcome fully-vaccinated Americans starting Monday morning.

“We are relieved that CBSA and the government finally stepped up to address the most important issues for our members to avoid a prolonged labour dispute,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) national president. “The agreement is a testament to the incredible hard work and dedication of our bargaining team who worked through the night to reach a deal.” 

“We also couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of our members, who put intense pressure on the government at every airport and border crossing across the country today.”

Among the items agreed to, workers will receive a two per cent a year salary increase over the four year term of the deal.

IMPACT ON TRAVEL

Early Friday, there were concerns about the impact on Canada’s hampered travel industry after contract negotiations between the federal government and the union representing border workers failed to reach an agreement by the deadline.

Employees with the Canada Border Services Agency are considered essential workers so walk-offs en masse were never in place.

Instead, “work-to-rule” actions were taken, according to its PSAC Customs and Immigration Union (PSAC-CIU).

A series of “sweeping” actions started across the country to send a message to their employer, the Treasury Board of Canada.

The job action came days before Canada reopens its border to fully-vaccinated Americans on Monday.

It affects more than 8,500 Canada border service agents with 400 of those in Alberta.

There were fewer agents to process travellers at land crossing and airport terminals.

The job action also had an impact on commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations. 

AIRPORT STATEMENT

The Calgary Airport Authority issued a statement Friday morning.

“We are committed to ensuring a safe, secure and efficient experience as border restrictions ease and we welcome more travellers through YYC. We are receiving regular updates from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and we are proactively working with our airport partners to help minimize the impacts to passengers and employees,” it read.

“CBSA has advised that screening protocols will continue to be completed for all international passengers arriving in Canada, ensuring health of Canadians and security of borders are maintained during this period. We are monitoring the situation closely for impacts to passengers and employees, and we ask travellers and guests for patience as CBSA wait times could increase.”

The PSAC-CIU said it hoped to force the government back to the table to address what it called a “toxic” workplace culture, and parity with other law enforcement personnel across Canada.

“They’re saying enough is enough,” said Marianne Hladun with PSAC.

“Key priorities are truly a toxic workplace with harassment and abuse that’s not been addressed by CBSA, and as well as really recognition of the fact that they are the second largest law enforcement body in Canada.”

The border agents have been working without a contract for three years.

The prime minister said Thursday that he hoped this would be resolved at the bargaining table, but members said they wouldn’t return to the table until issues concerning wage and workplace culture were addressed.

A union spokesperson said in an email that the bargaining team would reconvene Tuesday to discuss the next steps for ratification of the deal.

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