Toronto

Border workers' union warns of longer airport wait times in new contract bid

The union representing border agents and workers are calling for a new contract from the CBSA that it says is more in line with other law enforcement agencies.

Union says main issues include 'pay gap' between law enforcement agencies in Canada

Border officials and workers rallied inside Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport as their union ramps up pressure on the CBSA. (Adrian Cheung/CBC News)

More than 100 Canadian border officials and workers rallied at a terminal at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday continuing their call for a new contract from the Canadian Border Services Agency. 

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) says a pay gap of $12,000 exists between border officials and other law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP. 

"Through time, our role has changed significantly," said Jean-Pierre Fortin, president of CIU. He said in the past, much of the work of border officials focused on "collecting taxes" on liquor and cigarettes. 

"Right now, we're the first line of defence of this country," Fortin said, adding that a crucial part of the work of border agents is to intercept drugs and weapons into Canada. 

Jean-Pierre Fortin, president of CIU, wants to close the "pay gap" he said exists between border officials and other law enforcement agencies. (Michael Cole/CBC News)

The union, which has been campaigning publicly for a new deal since December 2017, says their other demands include the possibility of officers retiring after 25 years without pension penalties and preventing CBSA from outsourcing the work of officials to computer kiosks. 

The CIU says 1,600 positions have been taken away in the last five years, with many of them going toward technology. 

"By replacing the interactions we're having with the passengers, you're reducing the level of security in this country," Fortin said. 

"By replacing the interactions we're having with the passengers, you're reducing the level of security in this country." - Jean-Pierre Fortin , president of CIU

The CBSA responded to the union's demands in a statement to CBC News, confirming contract negotiations are ongoing between the Treasury Board of Canada, CBSA and the union.

"It would not be appropriate for the CBSA to comment on the negotiations," the statement added.

The current contract between CBSA and the union expired in June 2014.

Longer 'wait times' considered as negotiation tactic 

Border services are considered an "essential service" and members of the union have said they will not formally walk off the job, said Fortin.

But the union says there are pressure tactics at their disposal to force negotiations. 

"I don't know if it's going to be [longer] wait times. We're not trying to target the public but commercial expeditions could certainly be targeted," Fortin said. 

The president added, "what I can guarantee: there will be an impact on travellers." 

The union president also said the pressure may increase and coincide with summer travel. 

The CBSA and CIU are set to meet at the negotiating table next week. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that CBSA and the union had a contract in place since June 2014. In fact, the contract expired in June 2014.
    Mar 15, 2018 8:06 PM ET

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