Customs workers hold rally at Ambassador Bridge
Published Friday, January 12, 2018 4:38PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 12, 2018 8:38PM EST
You could be facing delays this summer trying to cross the Windsor-Detroit border.
The leaders of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) are threatening job action to back contract demands, as about 150 members held a rally at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge on Friday.
There are 540 people who work as border guards or clerical support staff for the Canada Border Services Agency in Windsor. More than 10,000 employees work across the country, and they have been without a contract since June 2014.
“Quite honestly, it’s very aggravating and depressing really,” admits Ken Turner, the president of Local 18 of the CIU.
The number one issue for the union is wage parity with other law enforcement agencies in Canada.
“We're expected to uphold and enforce 91 acts of parliament including drug and firearms legislation,” says Turner. “Yet we're not being recognized or paid like other law enforcement agencies.”
“We’re the first line of defence in this country,” says Jean-Pierre Fortin, the union’s national president who was in Windsor for Friday’s rally.
Fortin says they have met with the CBSA and the Treasury Board of Canada, but they are not close to a settlement.
CBSA employees are considered essential services and they are not allowed to walk off the job. But the union is considering other forms of job action, which includes delaying traffic.
Turner says you haven't seen that yet because members could be fired or criminally charged before they are in a legal strike position in the late spring or early summer.
The CIU has asked for what is called a “public interest commission report.” It’s considered a last ditch effort where the labour board appoints a chair and nominates a member from the two sides to help find middle ground. If that doesn’t work, the union would hold a strike vote.