Agents at Canadian border go on partial strike just as it’s set to reopen
Sebastian Hughes, DCNF
- Canada’s border agents started a partial strike Friday that could cause significant delays to trade and tourism, just as the country is about to let Americans in for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- “We’ve been on the front lines of Canada’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis and the government has just not given us respect at the bargaining table,” Richard Savage, first national vice president for the Customs and Immigration Union, told the Detroit Free Press.
- “The government is still at the table and will not walk away,” a spokeswoman for Canada’s Treasury Board told the WSJ Friday.
Border agents in Canada launched a partial strike on Friday, causing work slowdowns that threaten the country’s reopening to Americans in the coming days, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Talks between the unions and the Canadian government broke down over the course of the night, failing to meet the 6 a.m. Friday deadline, just before Canada is set to open its borders for the first time since the pandemic began to vaccinated Americans on August 9th, the WSJ reported.
As a result, the agents will begin to decrease the amount of work they do at land crossings and airports, the Public Service Alliance of Canada told the WSJ. They warned these actions could cause lengthened delays for shippers and tourists.
Unionized border agents have been without a contract since June 2018, Richard Savage, first national vice president for the Customs and Immigration Union, told the Detroit Free Press.
“We’ve been on the front lines of Canada’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis and the government has just not given us respect at the bargaining table,” he said.
Savage said the main demands the border agents are asking for were wage parity with other law enforcement agencies, improved protection against the “heavy-handed discipline” the agency enforces, and changes in language that allows remote work for a number of employees.
Two-thirds of the unionized agents are considered essential workers, meaning they are unable to engage in a full strike, the WSJ reported. What they can do, however, is pursue a work-to-rule campaign, where they would only do what they are assigned and nothing more.
Big delays for truckers 🚛 now on I-75 going to Canada 🇨🇦 due to the Canadian border patrol strike. Still backed up in the Ambassador Bridge @WWJ950 @WWJTraffic @FOX2News #fridaymorning #Detroit #Truckers pic.twitter.com/uASwNJ3Xzm
— Charlie Langton (@charlielangton) August 6, 2021
For instance, agents could choose to work only within their scheduled hours and slow down processing for trucks and travelers, the WSJ reported. This could harm the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, whose sales have capsizedbecause of the pandemic.
Dennis Darby, head of the lobby group Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, told the WSJ the partial strike “will hamper manufacturers’ ability to get the essential components and goods to sustain global supply chains and threatens thousands of Canadian businesses.”
Commercial vehicles on the Ambassador Bridge, which connect Michigan and Canada, were already forced to a standstill Friday, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A mediator was recruited to help hash out the differences between the two groups, the WSJ reported. “The government is still at the table and will not walk away,” a spokeswoman for Canada’s Treasury Board, in charge of public-service staffing, told the WSJ Friday.
“There will be no picket lines, everybody will be in the workplace, and what that means is we’ll be doing our job to the letter of the law,” Savage said.
“We, as border officers, administer over 97 different laws and acts of Canada. We routinely, maybe not ignore, but we push aside certain things that may not have the importance, you know, at the time, to allow for the borders to function smoothly. So, if we work to rule, it’s going to result in significant delays to both the traveling public as well as to the commercial stream,” he said.