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Major border back-ups at Michigan-Ontario crossings

TORONTO, Ont. -- Fears that ongoing labour disputes between the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and its union,...

TORONTO, Ont. — Fears that ongoing labour disputes between the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and its union, the Canadian Customs Excise Union, and recurrent walk-offs by front-line customs inspectors would eventually spill over to other major border crossings appear to be coming true.

Thursday afternoon, the problems spilled over to the major Michigan-Ontario border crossings — the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge and the Bluewater Bridge.

“It’s a disaster getting back into Canada today,” said David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “It’s costing our industry a million dollars an hour – a cost that ultimately must be borne by the economy. We (the trucking industry) can’t afford to absorb these delay costs. We need a resolution.”

Delays at the Ambassador Bridge and Bluewater Bridge are already stretching the line-ups of trucks back five or six kilometres at both crossings.

Customs inspectors at the Peace Bridge have walked off the job five times since May, citing personal security concerns and exercising their right to refuse work under the Canada Labour Code. Apparently, some of the inspectors want to be armed like their U.S. counterparts. Each time the union workers have walked off the job, Human Resource and Skills Development Canada ruled that there was no threat to personal safety and forced the customs inspectors back to work.

Back in September, in the wake of the labour disruptions at the Peace Bridge, Bradley wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who is directly responsible for the CBSA.

“These walk-offs are causing serious delays crossing the Canada-U.S. border for both commercial vehicles and private cars undermining all of our collective efforts to assure U.S. business and visitors that the border does not constitute a barrier to trade,” he wrote. “Much of what has been accomplished since Sept. 11 to keep the border functioning will be undone if we allow these types of situations to continue. Your officials must take immediate action to put in place whatever plans are required to end the current job action and to prevent another such work stoppage at the border.”

Bradley said the two sides have got to resolve their differences now, before more damage is done. In the meantime, he is encouraging all trucking companies to charge their customers for delays their trucks are encountering trying to get back into Canada. “Our customers need to become engaged in this issue. They have to understand that the delays are not the fault of the truckers and we cannot afford to have our equipment and drivers sitting in line-ups.”

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