Delays along Canada-U.S. Border as Canadian border workers go on strike

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Canadian border checkpoints at the Canada-U.S. Border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge in Lansdowne, Ontario, Canada, September 28, 2020. REUTERS / Lars Hagberg

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Delays at the Canada-U.S. Border have slowed trade crossings at a breakneck pace, government data shows, as Canadian border workers go on strike of calm amid contract negotiations with the federal government.

The wait time for commercial traffic across the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, B.C., and Blaine, Wash., Stood at more than five hours on Friday night, according to data from the government. The Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, the busiest land crossing between the two countries, had wait times of two and a half hours.

Talks between two unions representing Canadian border guards and personnel – the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) – and the federal government reached an impasse in December 2020, and unions served the federal government on July 27 on strike notice.

Both sides returned to the table after the strike notice was given, but unions said on Wednesday they could not reach a deal and their members would start working to govern as early as Friday.

The action means staff “will carry out their duties to the letter of the law,” a union statement said. This will include not answering travelers’ questions about border regulations or the collection of duties and taxes.

The union demands included a higher salary and the ability to bear arms in certain areas such as airports. Their members have been without contract for three years.

The federal government and unions confirmed negotiations continued through Thursday evening and Friday, but no progress was reported.

The government “will not withdraw,” Geneviève Sicard, spokesperson for the federal government, said in a press release on Friday.

Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada’s busiest airport before the pandemic, said on Twitter that travelers should expect delays due to the strike.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sandra Maler

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