Just when you thought it was time to cross into Canada, a strike at the border may change that.

8,500 union workers with the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) voted overwhelmingly on strike action. The strike could begin as early as next week, days before the border was scheduled to open for non-essential travel.

Talks between union officials, the border agency, and government officials have been ongoing for three years and there's still no contract. Workers are seeking better protections against a toxic workplace culture at CBSA, and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada. “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.”

The border was expected to finally open up to fully vaccinated Americans for non-essential travel on August 9 after being closed since March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit North America. A labor dispute could now cause significant disruption to the flow of goods, services, and people 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, Customs and Immigration Union (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 restrictions for Canadians crossing the U.S. border for any non-essential travel will stay in place until at least August 21, as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country.

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