Canadian border officers vote to strike, warn of delays

More than 8,500 staff working for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have voted to begin strike action as early as Aug. 6 – and are warning that commercial traffic could be slowed at border crossings.

The strike vote was held between June 16 and 23.

Canada-U.S. border
(Photo: Jim Park)

“Taking strike action is always a last resort, but we’re grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that must be addressed,” said Mark Weber, Customs and Immigration Union national president. “The toxic workplace culture at CBSA is taking a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of our members.”

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Aug. 21. Trucking continues as an essential service.

In a statement provided to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) notes that 90% of its border services officers have been identified as essential workers if there is a strike.

“CBSA operations will carry on as planned as the agency continues to ensure the safety and security of Canadians while maintaining the flow of goods and services across the border,” the notice says. “However, travelers and businesses could experience an increase in border wait times, picketing outside CBSA premises, and wearing of union-related accessories.”

The CBSA says it has developed “mitigation strategies” to ensure operations continue.

“Our members at CBSA have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, and many have contracted Covid-19 while working,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada president. “They’ve kept our borders safe, screened travelers entering Canada, and ensured the rapid clearance of vaccine shipments. Now it’s time for the government to step up for them the way they’ve stepped up for Canadians.”

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  • There is already a shortage of cross border drivers, delays will just cause some more to stop crossing. Just remember how most of the food, medicines and clothing get to Canada ( made in or via the USA ). Expect even more severe shortages.

  • Essential services cannot strike so the impact may be lessened and the harassment charges seem contrived for public sympathy.

  • It is unbelievable the Federal Liberals have had this file since 2018 to deal with a lack of contract and this is what it comes to on the way out of a pandemic. Word on the street is the CBSA rank and file want wage parity with other law enforcement agencies in Canada. That is a huge increase from what they are paid now. Not arguing about what the fair wage is, but if that is their goal, this is going to be a long work to rule order.

  • This is the time for all the trucking industry to shut it down and go on strike too. Then the trucking industry will get what they want change on the ELDs. ELD set at 8 km to move around in yard or truck stop, that is ridiculous. It should be set at least at 12 and change the personal conveyance so the driver can keep the trailer with him. Thank you.

  • Maybe out of context.. But I remember customs employees on strike and setting to put pressure at the borders on a certain Sept. 11, 2001 …. They had the show stollen in NY City that morning and went back to work.

  • These Public” Service” Unions had better smarten up! One day, soon I hope, Canada will have a real Prime Minister and not a deranged egomaniac! When that happens, a Ronald Reagan scene will happen. You want to strike and shut us down? You no longer work for Canada, and you will never work for Canada again!

  • @John Smith … Excellent point.
    @Al Copland … The harassment charges are real. The vast majority of CBSA staff are good people, but like any large group there are always a few rotten apples. The problem is that without an oversight office or committee there is no way to retrain/re-educate or get rid of the rotten apples.
    Every commercial driver that has crossed the border has likely run into one of these bad apples. They are always pissed off about something. They couldn’t get hired by a police force, and have to work a customs job. They couldn’t pass the psych exam and subsequently can’t carry a gun. They didn’t get laid last night so now it’s the fault of all the women they work with. Some were just born miserable and will never be happy regardless of what they get. Time for the government to step up and sort the wheat from the chaff.
    @Steven Young … Yes, and this from a government that seems bent on equality and fairness. Maybe some pigs are more equal than others?
    @Ernie Luke … The only people that want changes to the ELD are drivers that still haven’t figured out that they can’t get ahead by working for free. All the “changes” you mention are so drivers can cheat the book. Companies love drivers like that. Too dumb to figure out what they should be paid for.
    @William Paul … I recall a tagline from somewhere that read “I liked it better when the prime minister and the village idiot were two different people.” Seems apropos in this day and age.

  • Customs officers have been working without a contract since 2018. Come on Canada Treasury Board, time to get with it. Settle with these people immediately and prevent the hassle that many truckers will have to put up with.

  • Seriously.. toxic work environment that affects their mental health? Yet most treat people subhuman, how many times do you up to a booth and they can’t reach out window, I damn near have to crawl out the window so they don’t hyper extend their elbow? Really? So they whine about their conditions? Maybe be thankful they have a job, maybe come to the other side of the window and listen to the BS we put with that they directly cause! Furthermore what’s their solution? 10 minute cry closet breaks? Taxpayer supplied pampers? Everyone is a professional victim these days..

  • CBSA at front lines ! WTF! Most sat at home, left truckers in line ups because they were at home! It’s just this past week they started opening more lanes, in time for a strike

  • Good Grief Charlie Brown!! Truck drivers that get paid by the mile will, once again, waste away valuable, uncompensated time, just doing their jobs, keeping the economy going. Trucking companies have limited resources to compensate drivers financially, there is a limited amount of money for businesses to pay out to staff who persevere through difficult times, not so with government employees who can complain, then go on strike to get what they want.

  • The border has been closed to non essential travel for 18 months. During this time the border workers received full pay while doing much less work. Now they want to strike.

    Give the money back you did not earn then let’s talk.