Tuesday,  May 24, 2022  5:54 pm

Border to "return to normal" after striking workers reach tentative deal with feds

Border to "return to normal" after striking workers reach tentative deal with feds
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Following a work-to-rule demonstration that that brought traffic to a slow crawl at some of Canada’s busiest entry points last Friday (Aug. 6), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) workers have reached a tentative agreement with the federal government.

The deal was announced late Friday night after “an intense final round of negotiations that lasted more than 36 hours,” reads a statement from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), which represents some 9,000 Canadian border workers.

The resolution arrived just days before Canada, for the first time since March of 2020, was to begin allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents to enter the country on Aug. 9. 

“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, PSAC national president, in a statement. “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.”

The agreement means an immediate end to the work-to-rule action that had begun on Friday, ensuring that the flow of border traffic “will return to normal” as the government prepares to welcome U.S. travellers on Monday.

READ MORE: “Expect long lineups & lengthy delays”: Border workers issue Friday strike notice

Negotiations between PSAC-CIU and CBSA began in January 2019 but reached an impasse in December 2020.

Aspects of the tentative agreement include:

  • A four-year agreement from 2018-2022 with an average annual increase of over 2% per year;
  • Better protections against excessive discipline in the workplace;
  • The creation of a National Joint Committee to tackle workplace culture problems at CBSA;
  • A paid meal allowance for uniformed members, “similar to what most Canadian law enforcement agencies provide”;
  • A commitment letter to advance the work toward the introduction of early retirement benefits for CBSA employees;
  • A better grievance-handling process.
  • A Domestic violence leave and other leave and allowances.

Most CBSA officers are considered essential employees, a designation that prevented workers from completely walking off the job last week.

But last week’s sweeping work-to-rule efforts, which unfolded at Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities, caused disruptions nonetheless, such as lengthy lineups at various crossings.

The wait times for truckers at the Pacific Bridge in Surrey, B.C., for instance, reached more than five hours on Friday afternoon, the Canadian Press reported.

As the Canadian government, on Monday, enters the next phase of its reopening strategy, the tentative agreement should come as welcome news to the eligible Americans who are queuing up at the border for their big return to Canada.

“CBSA employees have been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one, protecting our borders and keeping Canadians safe. But they weren’t receiving the support they needed from the government,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president, in a statement. “Finally – after three years of negotiations – we’ve resolved longstanding issues that will go a long way towards making CBSA a better, safer place to work for our members.”

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