Signs of movement: In a separate statement, the union postponed its Friday morning news conference and hinted progress could be underway.
“We’re giving them a bit more time to negotiate at the table,” PSAC said. “In the meantime, work-to-rule actions are underway at border crossings and airports across the country. The situation is constantly evolving.”
Labor dispute backdrop: The actions, which started Friday at 6 a.m. ET, come just as Canada is readying to accept an influx of travelers.
Starting Monday, Canada will welcome fully vaccinated Americans for discretionary travel for the first time since March 2020. Visitors from other parts of the world will get the green light to enter Canada beginning Sept. 7.
Negotiations between the unions, the border agency and the Treasury Board of Canada dragged on for three years before they hit a stalemate last December. The parties only returned to the table in recent days after the unions said members voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of strike actions.
Business groups on both sides of the border are pressing the government and the labor unions to strike a new deal.
“Supply chains are critical to post-pandemic economic recovery and the experience for travelers crossing borders should not be met with undue delay, especially with the easing of border restrictions with the U.S.,” said a statement from the Future Borders Coalition, a group of more than 70 organizations with members in the transportation, tourism and cargo industries.
The coalition urged the federal government and the labor unions to act quickly to resolve the dispute.
The actions: Unions released a long list of work-to-rule strategies that workers could employ during the strike. The tactics range from agents asking every question in their manual at ports of entry, to verifying all documents, to coordinating with coworkers to take breaks together.
The impasse: Border staffers have been seeking parity with other Canadian law enforcement agencies. The unions say the government has offered border officers less than what it gave to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Workers have also called on the government to address concerns around harassment and management intimidation in what they say has become a “toxic workplace” with low employee satisfaction.
A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos has said the government was disappointed PSAC rejected a “fair offer.” The government says the offer included wage adjustments and provisions in line with deals reached with representatives of more than 88 percent of federal public servants.
From the top: Asked Thursday about the prospect of strike actions at the border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that he hoped the dispute would be settled at the bargaining table.
“Over the past number of years, we have resolved or renegotiated almost all the different public service agreements that we needed to do,” Trudeau said in Montreal. “We’re going to continue to be there to support hard-working Canadians who work every day to keep us safe … Our border guards have had extremely challenging roles to fill over the past year and a half. I want to thank them for their work and tell them that we will continue to work with them to resolve these challenges.”