The union that represents around 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency workers says its members have agreed to return to the bargaining table after threatening to strike – an action that could have interrupted Canada’s plan to reopen its borders.
Earlier this week, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) said its members voted in favour of striking on a date as soon as Aug. 6 – three days before the federal government begins allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to visit Canada on Aug. 9.
What was initially perceived as a possible delay in the government’s next phase in easing travel restrictions has been averted – for now, PSAC National President Chris Aylward implied in a release on Thursday (July 29).
“The government is clearly concerned about our strike mandate and the possibility of major disruptions at the border,” said Aylward in a statement. “We're going back to the table with an open mind, but we've been crystal clear that if they want to avoid a strike, they need to bring a new mandate to address major workplace issues."
Those issues include better protections against a "toxic workplace culture" at CBSA and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada, the unions said in a news release.
Employees have also been without a contract in more than three years, the unions said.
Negotiations resume the day after the Public Interest Commission (PIC) released its recommendations for both parties to reach a deal, including many improvements to the working conditions of CBSA employees.
With the release of the PIC report, the PSAC and CIU can still legally call a strike on Aug. 6 if a deal is not reached.
“Going back to the table is a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that we are grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that the employer must be willing to address,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president, in a statement. “Beyond needing stronger protections against a toxic workplace culture, our members also deserve parity with the broader law enforcement community.”