By Nate Tabak of FreightWaves,
Thousands of Canada Border Services Agency personnel have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike – something that could throw a wrench into port, cross-border trucking, airfreight and international parcel operations.
The strike could happen as early as Aug. 6, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union said on Tuesday. The union represents some 8,500 CBSA employees, including officers serving at ports of entry across the country.
The threat of a strike comes as Canada prepares to reopen its land border to nonessential travel for the first time since March 2020. The timing wasn’t lost on the union, which warned that a strike could lead to “significant disruption to the flow of goods.”
The impacts could bring delays to commercial vehicle traffic and impact parcel deliveries and duties collection, the union said.
CBSA officers serving in essential positions are legally barred from striking. But as American Shipper reported, the legal definition of essential is narrow in scope and doesn’t include collection of duties and taxes, according to a federal tribunal ruling.
The Port of Vancouver appears particularly vulnerable as it contends with an unprecedented level of container ship traffic. As the largest port in Canada, any disruption there could have impacts throughout the country and intermodal rail and trucking operations.
The union members have been without a contract since 2018 and are seeking pay parity with other Canadian law enforcement agencies and protections against what they allege is a toxic workplace culture.
“They’ve kept our borders safe, screened travelers entering Canada and ensured the rapid clearance of vaccine shipments,” Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said in a statement.
“Now it’s time for the government to step up for them the way they’ve stepped up for Canadians.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday that his government is negotiating with the union and hoped to reach an agreement.
“We’re hopeful that there won’t be any disruptions,” Trudeau told reporters.