Author Archives: Pierre St-Jacques

FB group: Renewed talks with CBSA stalled, union prepares for strike action

CIU members rallying with a sign that says "I'm on strike alert"

After returning to the bargaining table for two days of renewed negotiations with Treasury Board, talks stalled between PSAC-CIU and Treasury Board July 30.

It’s abundantly clear that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has not given Treasury Board a new mandate to address critical bargaining issues, including protections against a toxic workplace culture at CBSA and greater parity with other Canadian law enforcement personnel.

The FB bargaining team remains ready and available to return to the table and negotiate. In the meantime, PSAC-CIU will be mobilizing to begin sweeping job action beginning Friday August 6 if an agreement isn’t reached.

We would prefer to reach a fair agreement at the table and avoid disruptions at the border for Canadians, but the employer is leaving us with no other choice.

PSAC-CIU’s leadership is finalizing plans to coordinate strike activities across the country. You will receive more information early next week about what strike action will look like for you.

In the meantime, refer to the PSAC Strike Manual for more information on the PSAC strike structures or the Frequently Asked Questions for answers about essential employees and strike action.

You can also take several actions right now to help your FB bargaining team:

Thank you for your ongoing support and stay tuned for more details.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC recognizes Canada’s first Emancipation Day

Drawing of dove and broken chains for emancipation day

On August 1, Canadians will have the opportunity to recognize Emancipation Day nationally for the first time since Members of Parliament voted unanimously to designate the day earlier this year.

Emancipation Day is an opportunity to commemorate the abolition of slavery in most of the British Empire, including Canada, in 1834. It reminds us of the inter-generational trauma and harm caused by slavery and commemorates the resilience of Black and Indigenous people, while acknowledging the need for action, justice and reconciliation.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the injustices faced by Black and Indigenous people around the world, and we’ve heard their calls for action. But change doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a year, and the work has only just begun.

Our country has a painful history of slavery that remains obscure to many Canadians. The official recognition of Emancipation Day by the federal government is a welcome step forward on the path to reconciliation by bringing long overdue awareness to Canada’s troubling and racist past.

Slavery was gradually introduced in Canada beginning in the 16th century. Indigenous peoples were the first to be enslaved, accounting for two thirds of Canada’s slave population before 1750. After 1760, Black people were brought to Canada through the transatlantic slave trade in greater numbers, and they eventually became the predominant enslaved group.

Although Black and Indigenous peoples experienced slavery differently, both were dehumanized, taken from their homes and families, trafficked, and bought and sold as commodities. The intergenerational reverberations of slavery are felt in the continued systemic racism and inequities experienced by Black and Indigenous peoples to this day.

Emancipation Day offers an opportunity to reflect on these atrocities and work toward a more inclusive and mindful future. By taking both personal and collective action, we can achieve a more equitable and just Canada.

Here are some small ways you can make a difference:

  • OBSERVE: Seek out the ways Emancipation Day is being recognized in your community or province
  • EDUCATE: Visit your local library for books about slavery in Canada
  • ACT: Join a PSAC Human Rights Committee near you

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

CBSA employees, government resume talks after strike mandate

Photo of CIU members protesting

Just hours after announcing that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employees had voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action at Canada’s borders, unionized workers and the employer – CBSA and Treasury Board Secretariat – agreed to return to the table to resume negotiations on July 29.

“The government is clearly concerned about our strike mandate and the possibility of major disruptions at the border,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “We’re going back to the table with an open mind, but we’ve been crystal clear that if they want to avoid a strike, they need to bring a new mandate to address major workplace issues.”

Negotiations resume the day after the Public Interest Commission (PIC) released its recommendations for both parties to reach a deal, including many improvements to the working conditions of CBSA employees. Read more about the PIC’s recommendations.

With the release of the PIC report, The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) can legally call a strike on August 6 if a deal is not reached.

“Going back to the table is a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that we are grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that the employer must be willing to address,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president. “Beyond needing stronger protections against a toxic workplace culture, our members also deserve parity with the broader law enforcement community.”

CBSA employees have been without a contract for over three years. They are seeking better protections against a toxic workplace culture at CBSA, and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada. The union declared impasse in December and applied for a Public Interest Commission hearing after CBSA and Treasury Board were unwilling to address these concerns.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

FB bargaining team receives Public Interest Commission recommendation

PSAC-CIU received the Public Interest Commission’s report July 28 with their non-binding recommendations for reaching an agreement at the bargaining table. The report comes the day  after the union’s announcement of the FB strike vote results and puts us in a legal strike position as early as Friday, August 6.

Read the full PIC report

The report contains several important recommendations, including:

  • Opening the door for a discussion about a paid, pensionable meal period for union members;
  • Calling for paid firearm practice time and a fitness allowance for officers;
  • Recommending new protections for employees in the context of discipline;
  • Encouraging the parties to negotiate expanded seniority rights for scheduling and parameters regarding student work at CBSA;
  • Recommending language that ensures officers aren’t required to work alone, the grievance procedure is streamlined, and a negotiated increase in shift premium.

With respect to wages, the report states, “It is worth noting that the settlements for the FB group in the three previous rounds of bargaining have exceeded the core public administration pattern.”

Of significance, the recently negotiated settlement for RCMP employees was reached after the Public Interest Commission hearings took place in May and, therefore, did not form any part of the PIC deliberations.

While the report was silent about remote work for non-uniformed members, and pension reform (25 and out) is outside the PIC’s jurisdiction and therefore not addressed in the report, our team will continue to push for these improvements.

Our union and the employer have agreed to return to the bargaining table to resume talks on Thursday, July 29. The FB team is hopeful that Treasury Board and CBSA will return to the bargaining table with a renewed mandate to reach a fair agreement for PSAC-CIU members.

Make sure to keep your contact information up to date via the PSAC member portal to receive all the latest updates as we prepare to negotiate your next contract.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

Thousands of Canada Border Service Agency employees vote to strike

More than 8,500 unionized staff with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have given their union an overwhelming strike mandate, throwing into question the federal government’s plans for a smooth reopening of the Canada-U.S. border this summer as a federal election looms. CBSA employees could potentially begin strike action as soon as August 6, 2021.

The employees — members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) — have been without a contract for over three years. They are seeking better protections against a toxic workplace culture at CBSA, and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada. The union declared impasse and applied for a Public Interest Commission ruling after CBSA and Treasury Board were unwilling to address these concerns.

“Our members at CBSA have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, and many have contracted COVID-19 while working,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “They’ve kept our borders safe, screened travelers entering Canada, and ensured the rapid clearance of vaccine shipments. Now it’s time for the government to step up for them the way they’ve stepped up for Canadians.”

Risk of significant economic disruption

A labour dispute while borders begin to reopen could cause a significant disruption to the flow of goods, services and people entering Canada, and impact the Canadian economy by:

  • Slowing down commercial traffic at the border and ports of entry;
  • Impacting international mail and parcel deliveries from Canada Post and other major shipping companies;
  • Impact the collection of duties and taxes on goods entering Canada.

“Taking strike action is always a last resort, but we’re grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that must be addressed,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president. “The toxic workplace culture at CBSA is taking a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of our members.”

The federal government recently reached a tentative agreement with RCMP members that closed wage gaps and provided more supports for its members, showing a clear willingness to negotiate from the government. CBSA employees deserve the same level of respect at the bargaining table.

“We’ve told the government numerous times that we’re ready to return to the table to negotiate a fair contract that addresses our members’ concerns,” added Aylward. “But their window to avert a strike is quickly closing.”

PSAC-CIU members at CBSA include border service officers at airports, land entry points, marine ports, and commercial ports of entry, inland enforcement officers, intelligence officers, investigators, trade officers, hearings officers and non-uniformed members. The strike vote was held between June 16 and July 23.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.