Border reopening plan facing roadblock as thousands of border officials consider strike action

The federal government's plan to reopen the border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens next month could be complicated by the threat of strike action.

This week, more than 8,500 Canada Border Services Agency officers — who have been without a contract since June 2018 — are voting on whether they're willing to walk out. 

If more than half vote yes, they could be in a strike position by early August — just as the country prepares to again welcome fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

While a number of CBSA officers would be deemed essential workers, a strike could cause massive delays for those travelling by air and land. "Potentially, it could slow things down," said Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union.  "We're not doing it with any kind of joy because we really want the borders to run smoothly. We've been working so hard for a year and a half to keep them running smoothly under probably the most difficult circumstances any of us have ever encountered."

Weber said the union is fighting primarily for three things: salary parity with other law enforcement workers in Canada, better protections against harassment and discrimination, and a remote work policy for non-uniformed members. 

A spokesperson for the CBSA said the agency is preparing for a possible work disruption. "The Canada Border Services Agency will respond quickly to any job action/work disruption in order to maintain the security of our border, ensure compliance with our laws and facilitate the flow of legitimate goods and travel," said Louis-Carl Brissette Lesage in an email to CBC News.  "We expect that our officers will continue to fulfil their duties with the highest level of integrity and professionalism."

This was excerpted from the 20 July 2021 edition of CBC News.