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CBSA Strike on Hold as Talks Resume

CBSA Strike on Hold as Talks Resume

The temporary suspension of the CBSA strike provides a critical window for continued mediation and the hope of reaching a fair and reasonable agreement for all parties involved.

The anticipated CBSA strike was put on hold at the last moment on Friday, allowing negotiations to proceed. This decision came just before the 4 p.m. EST deadline for job action, as stated by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), which represent over 9,000 CBSA workers.

CBSA and PSAC working towards an agreement

PSAC had threatened to commence job action on Friday afternoon if no agreement was reached with the CBSA and Treasury Board, potentially disrupting border crossings nationwide. This comes at a critical time, with potential labor stoppages among Canada's rail workers and at the Port of Montreal.

“All strike action by 9,000 CBSA personnel is on hold as mediation will continue until Wednesday,” the alliance announced. “Picket lines will not be in place until further notice.”

“The Government of Canada is pleased that the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has committed to remain at the table to continue negotiations,” the Treasury Board Secretariat said. “Discussions have been productive, and we remain committed to reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable for members of the Border Services Group as quickly as possible.”

Earlier on Friday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland emphasized the federal government’s concern about the CBSA strike’s potential economic impact.

“The parties are at the table working hard and our view is, the best deals are reached at the table,” Freeland told reporters.

“We are very much working towards and hoping for a resolution, recognizing the importance of trade to Canada and the efficient movement of goods across the borders.”

Union demands and the potential impacts of a CBSA strike

CBSA workers have been without a contract since June 2022. The union is advocating for higher wages, improved retirement benefits, including early retirement after 25 years of service, and alignment with other Canadian law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP and Correctional Services Canada. They also seek clear remote work rules and assurances that vacancies will not be filled with contracted workers.

“These aren’t unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky demands,” CIU national president Mark Weber told Global News. “We’re really asking to be given what pretty much everyone else has. So I really think there’s room for a deal to be had.”

Although essential CBSA workers cannot legally strike, the union warned that Canadians would still experience the impact. It cited a brief CBSA strike in 2021 that nearly halted commercial cross-border traffic, causing significant delays at airports and borders.

The Treasury Board noted that 90% of CBSA workers are considered essential. While it respects the right to strike, it asserted that “unlawful job action will not be tolerated.” CBSA employees are required to fulfil their duties but can take part in job action during non-working hours.

The government emphasized its commitment to a fair agreement for workers and taxpayers, suggesting that the union needed to be more willing to compromise. “Negotiation is a process of give and take,” the Treasury Board’s statement read. “The government is prepared to make concessions, but there needs to be movement on both sides.”

If no agreement is reached by June 12, a CBSA strike remains possible, potentially leading to long lines at the border during the busy travel season.

At Cole International, we are closely monitoring the developments and will keep you informed with the latest updates as this story unfolds. If you have any questions, please reach out to one of our trade professionals.

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