Thousands of members of the Canada Border Services Agency are in the midst of voting on whether to authorize a strike — something that could roil the movement of billions of dollars of goods via its border with the U.S., airports and shipping ports. Nowhere more acutely than the Port of Vancouver.
Some 9,000 CBSA employees represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union have been holding strike votes across the country since June 16. The last one happens in Ottawa on Monday. While border officers in certain essential roles are forbidden from taking part in any strike, the union believes it has the means to cause meaningful disruptions.
“We will be very strategic,” union President Jean-Pierre Fortin told American Shipper. “We don’t need to have a shutdown of all the ports of entry to have an effect.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Canada’s supply chains have already been under strain from the unprecedented volatility and surge in demand for consumer products because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is erratic and delays availability of a wide range of imports; appliances like refrigerators can take months to arrive. It also comes as pressure mounts for Canada to reopen the land border with the U.S. for nonessential travel.
“This would be a really bad time for them to go on strike,” said Graham Robins, CEO of Vancouver-based A & A Customs Brokers.