Border officers on the verge of strike action rally in Windsor

Windsorites gathered near the Ambassador Bridge Wednesday evening in support of border officers on the verge of strike action.

Unions warn a strike could slow down cross-border travel

People rallied in Windsor on Wednesday in support of Canada Border Services Agency workers who will take strike action on Friday if a deal isn't reached. (Sanjay Maru)

The union representing border guards in Windsor held a rally near the Ambassador Bridge Wednesday evening ahead of strike action which could come Friday.

Around 5:30 p.m., people gathered at the McDonalds parking lot near the bridge to show solidarity with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers, who have been without a contract for three years. 

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, union leaders representing the border officers sent out a statement saying that employees would be taking job action as of Friday morning at 6 a.m., if negotiations that day were not successful.

Around 8,500 CBSA workers are represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU). Workers who are considered essential will be taking part in a work-to-rule, which is not a full strike but will likely result in slowdowns at the border, according to the unions.

According to Alissa Howe, CIU Local 18 president, 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." 

If the job action goes ahead, it will come just days before Canada allows 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 on Aug. 9.

In a statement to CBC News, the CBSA said it will "respond quickly to any job action" to ensure the border remains safe and open to legitimate travellers and goods.

The agency also noted that 90 per cent of border agents have been identified as essential workers. A CBSA spokesperson said that in the event of strike action, "we expect that our officers will continue to fulfil their duties with the highest level of integrity and professionalism."

The unions say they are fighting for salary parity with other law enforcement workers in Canada, better protections against harassment and discrimination and a remote work policy for non-uniformed members. 

If a deal is not reached, the job action could slow down operations at commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and CBSA offices as well. 

With files by Sanjay Maru and Nick Boisvert


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