About 9,000 Canadian border guards began work-to-rule job action Friday, a few days before the Canada-US border is to open for the first time since March 2020.
Despite bargaining all night ending at 6 a.m. (1000GMT) Friday, the two unions representing the workers could not reach an agreement with the Treasury Board of Canada, the arm of the federal government that presides over the border agency employees.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada and Customs and Immigration Union members will be in a full-scale strike position Monday and long delays are expected at the border, a blow to Canadian tourism sector that has suffered economically during the border closure.
“There was a lot of anticipation around Monday’s border reopening,” Beth Potter, president and chief executive officer of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). “That just knocked the stuffing out of some folks.
“These are the businesses that have been struggling, that have been the hardest hit in all of the pandemic,” she said, referring to those who operate fly-in fishing lodges and others who provide access to the Canadian wilderness. Most of the businesses rely on visiting Americans.
The Canada Border Services Agency and Customs and Immigration Union members have been without a contract for three years. The main issues are union demands for paid firearm practice sessions, paid dinner breaks, a fitness allowance and better treatment for members who face disciplinary action, the CBC reported.
The border, which has been closed to all but essential services such as transportation of food and medical supplies, is scheduled to be reopened to vaccinated Americans and permanent residents on Monday.
The unions warned that a strike will create long lineups not just at border crossing points like airports, but also at commercial shipping depots and the offices of the Canada Border Services Agency.
Treasury board officials said the union was presented with a fair offer by the federal government, including pay raises.
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