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CBSA workers start job action ahead of Canada-U.S. border rules easing

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WATCH: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is warning travellers to prepare for delays, as thousands of its employees begin work-to-rule action. Seán O'Shea explains what workers are calling for, and how negotiations are going just days before Canada eases restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans – Aug 6, 2021

Roughly 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency workers started job actions across Canada on Friday, which resulted in delays for many travellers at border crossings and airports.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the workers alongside the Customs and Immigration Union, said negotiations with the government continue.

“Our bargaining team has continued to bargain through the night and all of today to try to reach a deal, but we don’t have a firm timeline for when we may have more information to share,” the union said in a news release.

Click to play video: 'CBSA workers start work-to-rule action ahead of Canada-U.S. border rules easing' CBSA workers start work-to-rule action ahead of Canada-U.S. border rules easing
CBSA workers start work-to-rule action ahead of Canada-U.S. border rules easing – Aug 6, 2021

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said it had been bargaining with the government since 2018 and it served a strike notice on Tuesday. The union plans to provide an update later in the day.

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The union’s work-to-rule actions include refusing overtime, asking each border crosser every question in the manual to extend stops, and conducting full checks of receipts from cross-border shopping.

Click to play video: 'CBSA official asks for travellers’ patience as border agents begin job action' CBSA official asks for travellers’ patience as border agents begin job action
CBSA official asks for travellers’ patience as border agents begin job action – Aug 6, 2021

Commercial truck driver Andrew Baker said his delivery would be late as a result of waiting two-and-a-half hours at the Blue Water Bridge crossing near Sarnia, Ont.

Baker told Global News he left Ohio at 2:30 a.m. and was due to be in Toronto by noon. He estimated his delivery would be an hour-and-a-half late.

“It’s irritating to be delayed,” he said. “But at the same time, if I was a union employee who’s been without a contract for three years — you know, I think they’ve waited long enough to strike.”

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Travellers bracing for delays as Canadian border service agents ready for job action – Aug 5, 2021

A spokesperson for the Treasury Board of Canada told Global News in an email that mediation continued throughout the night, and that the “government is still at the table and will not walk away.”

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About 90 per cent of border workers have been deemed essential, and they’re expected to continue to show up to work, said Denis Vinette, vice president of the travellers branch with the CBSA.

“I know they are the professionals that they’ve always been and that the labour process will run its course,” he told Global News. “I can’t speak to any of what’s happening there, but we will work with our employees and make sure that the border remains open and as fluid as we can have it.”

In a statement, the CBSA added that “travellers should plan for the possibility of additional processing time when crossing the border due in part to this labour action.”

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Read more: Kids at risk as Canada-U.S. border rules set to ease amid Delta surge: experts

The dispute comes as Canada is preparing to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit without having to quarantine, starting Aug. 9.

Fully vaccinated travellers from elsewhere in the world will be allowed to enter as of Sept. 7.

PSAC-CIU represents 5,500 border services officers, 2,000 headquarters staff, and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in inland enforcement jobs employed by the CBSA and Treasury Board Secretariat.

The union members have been without a contract for about three years because they and their 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.

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Delta variant concerns being raised as Canada prepares to reopen its border – Aug 4, 2021

Union members voted last month to strike as early as Friday if the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

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The union said a public interest commission formed when a consensus couldn’t be reached. Several measures were outlined in late July that the unions said include discussions around a paid pensionable meal period for union members, paid firearm practice time, a fitness allowance for officers and new protections for disciplined employees.

The union also said the report encouraged the parties to negotiate expanded seniority rights for scheduling, parameters regarding student work, language ensuring officers aren’t required to work alone and a streamlining of grievance procedures.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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CBSA workers start job action across Canada – Aug 6, 2021

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