Union ‘has to tread a careful line’ if border officers go on strike
While it remains to be seen whether union members will authorize a strike, let alone whether one will happen, they could find themselves in a position that’s even less tenable than the longshoremen who went on strike at the Port of Montreal in April.
“The union has to tread a careful line in having an effective strike while not opening the door to back-to-work legislation,” said Sara Slinn, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto and a Canadian labor law expert.
The federal government would have a strong basis for using legislation to force an end to any strike if it caused significant disruptions to the supply chain considering the existing impacts of the pandemic, Slinn said.
Montreal longshoremen ultimately were forced back to work through legislation after the strike put hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade on ice.
Back-to-work legislation would likely have strong public support, particularly if a strike imperils the federal government’s ability to reopen the land border with the U.S. to nonessential travel, Slinn said.
Fortin, president of the border officers’ union, said while he understands that companies in the supply chain may be worried about the potential effects of a strike, he hopes they will sympathize with the push for a new contract.
“They should understand the role that we played in facilitating the movement of goods for the past 18 months,” he said. “Our officers faced COVID when the level of danger was quite high.”