Delays expected at Ambassador Bridge, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel as border agents work to rule

Delays are expected at Canada-U.S. border crossings, including in Windsor, due to job action from Canadian border officers that began Friday morning.

CBSA workers, without a contract for 3 years, began job action Friday morning

Traffic delays on the Ambassador Bridge connecting Ontario and Michigan were expected as Canada Border Services Agency officers began work-to-rule action Friday. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Delays are expected for incoming travellers at Canada-U.S. border crossings, including in Windsor, due to job action from Canadian border officers that began Friday morning.

Truck driver David Ferreira, who lives in Essex in southwestern Ontario, said there was a slowdown for traffic heading into Canada on Friday morning at the Ambassador Bridge.

When he spoke with CBC Windsor, he had already been waiting for half an hour. 

"We're just moving slightly here a little bit, but due to the strike here, traffic's backed right up and over the bridge onto the freeway," he said.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) workers are participating in work-to-rule action, the Public Service Alliance of Canada confirmed at around 6:40 a.m. ET.

"Our bargaining team representing CBSA employees has been in mediation with CBSA and Treasury all night and through to this morning, and we're giving them a bit more time to negotiate at the table," PSAC said in a statement issued later that morning.

The union, which postponed a news conference set for 10 a.m., said the situation is "constantly evolving."

"In the meantime, work-to-rule actions are underway at border crossings and airports across the country."

CBSA workers, who are represented by PSAC and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), have been without a contract for over three years.

Workers who are considered essential make up 90 per cent of staff, and are taking part in the work-to-rule action. 

Alissa Howe, CIU Local 18 president, said earlier this week that border officers will be doing their jobs to the fullest the law will allow. 

"We'll be asking if you have any pet, plant, meat, animal products. If you have a pet with you, if you have a vaccination certificate," said Howe. "Possibly less lines being open, more questioning, more examination." 

In a statement, the CBSA said it expects officers will continue to fulfil their duties with "the highest level of integrity and professionalism."

A sign in support of the union representing border service workers, who've been without a contract for three years, is shown in a vehicle near the Ambassador Bridge on Friday. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"Travellers should plan for the possibility of additional processing time when crossing the border due in part to this labour action. The agency thanks travellers and businesses for their patience," CBSA said in a statement Friday.

The prospect of delays has caused concern within the trucking industry as well as the local business community.

Rakesh Naidu, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the free flow of goods and services would be impacted.

"Even though the border may not be fully closed, it will lead to delays and the delays will cost us," Naidu said. 

The job action comes just days before Canada will allow entry to fully vaccinated leisure travellers from the U.S. for the first time since March 2020.

The new rules for U.S. citizens and permanent residents take effect Monday.

With files from Katerina Georgieva, Dale Molnar and Sanjay Maru