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Border workers rally in Saint John for better work-life balance

Canada’s border guards hold rally in Saint John
WATCH: The union representing Canada's border guards held a rally in Saint John, calling attention to contract negotiations that have been deadlocked for over a year. Travis Fortnum reports.

Canada Border Service workers rallied outside the agency’s Saint John office Tuesday as contract negotiations approach the two-year mark.

It was July 2018 when the previous agreement was signed – the problem? It expired one month earlier.

So, it was instantly back to negotiations.

“I support my bargaining team” was among the slogans on signs held by supporters.
“I support my bargaining team” was among the slogans on signs held by supporters. Travis Fortnum

Stephane Lebel, President of the Customs and Immigration Union’s New Brunswick & P.E.I. chapters says they’re tired of the back and forth.

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“It’s always a fight to get something.”

“It’s the waiting game always takes a long time and we don’t want that anymore – the last contract took four years, we signed it and it and it was already expired when we signed it.”

The union says they’re fighting for respect and a better work-life balance for it

s members.

Among the demands: stricter protections against management discipline, a streamlined grievance process and a “25 and out” pension option – meaning after 25 years of service, workers would be able to retire without penalty.

Contract negotiations are in their second year.
Contract negotiations are in their second year. Travis Fortnum

For officers like Marjorie Gable, it’s about fairness in the law enforcement field.

“25 and out gives us options towards the end of our career that other law enforcement have,” she says.

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“RCMP, corrections they all have 25 and out and we just want to be treated the same as they are.”

Tuesday’s rally followed a meeting between union representatives and Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long.

A meeting the union says was productive, backed up by Long’s attendance at the rally.

MP Wayne Long attends the rally to show his support.
MP Wayne Long attends the rally to show his support. Travis Fortnum

“I understand what they’re saying,” Long says, “I will advocate for them in Ottawa – I mean I’m one MP, I’m one voice but I am one voice that can certainly take Southern New Brunswick concerns forward to Ottawa and I’m going to do that.”

When reached for comment, the CBSA told Global News:

“As contract negotiations are ongoing between the Treasury Board of Canada, the employer, and members of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), it would be inappropriate for the CBSA to comment on the negotiations.”

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The two sides are set to meet again on Jan. 21.