The union representing Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers staged a rally at the Peace Arch border crossing Wednesday afternoon, drawing public attention to its ongoing contract negotiations with the federal government.
Starting at noon, dozens of union members, including those who work at the Aldergrove-Lynden’s border crossing, sporadically blocked southbound traffic to the border while motorists honked their horns.
It is the first demonstration of its kind in the province, said Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) national president Jean-Pierre Fortin.
Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada are demanding a wage increase that keeps up with inflation, better protections for members from CBSA management, improved work-life balance, and already mentioned pension reform.
Fortin said Canadian border officers are currently on the “frontline of the coronavirus,” an asylum-seeker crisis in B.C., and government gun-control strategy– and yet “lack basic treatment of respect.”
CBSA officers are the only type of law enforcement officials in Canada not allowed to retire after 25 years of service, without penalty.
“Even correctional service employees have that [retirement clause] in their agreement,” Fortin explained.
“We’re growing impatient,” Fortin uttered alongside unsatisfied CBSA union members.
CBSA officers have been without a collective agreement since June of 2018, Fortin said. The last round of bargaining took four years to come to an agreement on a “decent contract,” he said.
CIU is now in its second year of bargaining for a new contract.
“By this June it will be three years.”
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Although the border was fully operational Wednesday, Fortin said CIU will “in the very near future” assess “pressure tactics.”
“And it could certainly impact, you know, the public in general,” he said. “We will be escalating this.”
Fortin said CIU intends to send a very clear message to the government with the rally – “start bargaining.”
Wednesday’s rally marked the third the union has staged across the country, including two previous protests in New Brunswick and Ontario.
– with files from Aaron Hinks