Author Archives: Pierre St-Jacques

CIU, PSAC respond to CBSA’s Summer Action Plan, file policy grievance

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On June 27, 2022, as part of our response to CBSA’s Summer Action Plan, PSAC filed a policy grievance on behalf of CIU members, asserting that the Canada Border Services Agency violated the FB collective agreement by unilaterally introducing the Summer Action Plan.

As per the grievance, the union is of the opinion that the policies and actions put forward by the SAP constitute an unreasonable exercise of managerial responsibilities and are in violation of the FB collective agreement, including but not limited to the clauses affecting hours of work, overtime, religious observance, vacation leave with pay, sick leave with pay, as well as Appendix B.

As a result, the union is seeking the following corrective actions:

  • A declaration that the employer’s policies are in violation of the FB collective agreement,
  • That CBSA adheres to the provisions of the collective agreement and rescinds the arbitrarily imposed new policies and rules related to shift changes, overtime, leave management, and overtime compensation,
  • That the union, and any member prejudiced by these new policies, be made whole, and
  • Any other corrective measures deemed appropriate under the circumstances.

The measures introduced as part of SAP are far reaching, and we understand that questions remain regarding the impact of the Plan on our members, as well as possible recourses. More information will follow in the coming days, including answers to frequently asked questions, along with guidance on the possibility of individual grievances in appropriate circumstances.

Delays at the border: CBSA lets border officers and travelers down

Airplane seen from above.

With no end in sight to delays affecting travelers at airports and border crossings across the country, it’s clear the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has no plan to to get travel back on track anytime soon. This is only made more evident by CBSA’s recently announced Summer Action Plan (SAP) for 2022, which lacks any long-term fixes to address the lengthy delays and staff shortages that threaten to burden an already strained system for years to come.

“We’re concerned the measures proposed by the Agency will only serve to further inconvenience travelers and undermine border security,” said Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU). “Minister Marco Mendicino and CBSA must commit to a real plan and increase the number of border officers as soon as possible to prevent any further reduction in service for travelers.”

CBSA’s action plan is meant to relieve summertime pressures on border services, but it fails to address the root causes of the issues affecting CBSA workers and travelers across the country: chronic understaffing and an over-reliance on inefficient, automated technologies.

Instead, the plan focuses on poorly planned half-measures including mandatory overtime for officers, suspending non-essential training and exercises, lengthier assignments, reallocating dedicated enforcement teams, and even reducing or outright denying discretionary leave.

“Despite facing insurmountable challenges, border services officers have never faltered in their commitment to keeping Canadians safe throughout the pandemic,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “But the federal government clearly doesn’t recognize their contributions and the incredible strain they’ve been under. As we head into the next round of bargaining with Treasury Board and CBSA, improving staffing levels and working conditions will be key issues for our members.”

The troubling staffing issues and considerable delays at the border have been years in the making. CIU estimates that there is a total deficit of 1,000 to 3,000 officers at all levels of border operations. Yet CBSA and the federal government have chosen to continue to stretch an already thinned-out workforce. By discounting the physical and mental well-being of border services officers, the government only risks alienating and losing dedicated personnel.

“While Canadians are ready to start traveling again, CBSA is ill-equipped to deal with the surge in border traffic, and the government isn’t prepared  to address these issues effectively,” said Weber. “If the government wants to get serious about avoiding lengthy delays for years to come, the solution is simple: hire more officers, and rely on their expertise.”

FB bargaining: Team lays out priorities in first round of talks

The latest round of negotiations for PSAC-CIU members employed by CBSA kicked off when the FB bargaining team met with Treasury Board to exchange proposals on June 16 and 17. This followed the FB National Bargaining Conference, held in Ottawa from March 31 to April 2.

The team raised key issues this round including:

  • A commitment from Treasury Board to provide an early retirement regime comparable to other law enforcement agencies. This complements the work PSAC is doing with the Public Service Pension Advisory Committee.
  • New rights with respect to discipline and protections against forced overtime to address CBSA’s heavy handed management style.
  • Mechanisms that allow members to transfer to different ports and offices.
  • Rolling the paid meal allowance into salary and applying it to all FB members.
  • Job protections in the context of new technologies, contract workers, and student use.
  • Entrenching access to telework in the collective agreement.
  • New allowances for escort removal, dog handler, plain clothes, dry cleaning, and field coaching, as well as paid time for firearm practice.

The employer also tabled their proposals, which included reducing shift change notice from seven days to 48 hours, no weekend premium on overtime, and new restraints on access to care and nurturing leave. Management indicated they are interested in more “flexibility” for hours of work and identified “enhancing management authority” as a priority for this round of negotiations, which raises red flags for our team.

The FB bargaining team’s objective is to strengthen protections in the context of VSSAs, shift work, and hours of work for all FB members at CBSA and enhance protections against managerial authority. The team made it clear to the employer that they are looking for improvements that would make CBSA a better place to work, not concessions.

Wage proposals will be submitted at a future session once the employer provides payroll data. The team will be returning to the table in September.

Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date to receive all the latest updates about bargaining. If you have any questions, please contact your branch president or your PSAC regional office.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

ArriveCAN: A step in the wrong direction

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On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, Mark Weber, testified in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade as part of their study the potential impacts of the ArriveCAN application on certain Canadian sectors, highlighting the negative consequences of the application on cross-border travel and on the duties of border officers.

In his opening statement to the Committee, National President Weber was unequivocal: As far as Border Officers are concerned, the last few months have shown that ArriveCAN neither facilitates travel nor does it improve operational efficiency. In fact, it does just the opposite.

“Every Border Officer working on the frontline will tell you that the implementation of the ArriveCan application has seen processing times skyrocket” testified Mark Weber, pushing back against misleading CBSA figures. “Where a port of entry processed 60 cars per hour before, it now processes 30, if not less. At land borders, as far as traveler operations go, this means cars waiting for hours, and sometimes being redirected to another port further away. At airports, this means travelers piling up in and outside the customs area. In all locations, it translates into a frustrating experience for all involved.”

CBSA continues to rely on inefficient automated technology

Answering questions from Committee members, National President Weber also explained that while ArriveCAN was introduced to collect public health data, the application itself made the process needlessly complicated, and that simpler solutions ought to be considered. More importantly, the implementation of ArriveCAN has forced Border Officers to act more as IT consultants than law enforcement officers, further compounding the perennial issue of chronic understaffing at all levels of border operations.

Weber also took aim at CBSA’s poor use of technology, pointing out that the application “follows the same pattern of over-reliance on automated technology we have seen before with Primary Inspection Kiosks” resulting in a less efficient and less secure border.

Ultimately, if the government and its agencies wish to facilitate cross-border travel along with the flow of commercial goods in a safe and secure way, then ArriveCAN is a step in the wrong direction. “Technology certainly has its place” said Weber, “but it should be used to help travelers and assist officers, and not hinder them. By that metric, ArriveCan simply does not work”.

A recording of the Committee proceedings can be viewed here.

Employment Opportunity: Labour Relations Administrator (Permanent position)

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The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is seeking to hire a full-time bilingual Labour Relations Administrator (Band 6, under review) with extensive experience to be staffed on a full-time indeterminate basis.

Applications will be received until close of business on June 22, 2022 (5:00 p.m. EDT). Please see the full posting here (PDF) for more information about the position, the associated duties and requirements, and on how to apply.