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Union for Canada’s border workers extends job action deadline as mediation continues

Workers at ports of entry across Canada will go about business as usual over the coming days. A strike and any job action were averted by the 4 p.m. ET Friday deadline as union leadership and the government have extended mediation until Wednesday.

CIU had set deadline of 4 p.m. ET Friday if no agreement was in place

Trucks are shown going through customs at the Ambassador Bridge.

Workers at ports of entry across Canada will go about business as usual over the coming days.

A strike and any job action by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) workers were averted by the 4 p.m. ET Friday deadline, as union leadership and the government extended mediation talks until Wednesday.

"I'm hopeful we can reach a deal and avoid disruptions at Canada's borders," Mark Weber, Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) national president, said in a media release.

"Our members are essential — protecting our borders, preventing auto theft and stopping illegal drugs and firearms from entering Canada — and they deserve a fair contract that treats them with respect and dignity in line with other law enforcement agencies across the country."

News of the extended deadline is a reprieve for commuters, industry and small businesses who've expressed concerns about long, costly delays at Canada-U.S. borders.

WATCH | Traffic congestion on the Ambassador Bridge on Friday afternoon:

Heavy traffic at Ambassador Bridge Friday afternoon

10 hours ago

Duration 0:53

On Friday afternoon, ahead of a deadline for strike action from Canada Border Services Agency workers, there was heavy traffic at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. The bridge is shown from the U.S. side. The deadline for negotiations was later extended to next week.

In a statement, the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada said the government has "committed to remain at the table to continue negotiations."

"To date, discussions have been productive, and we remain committed to reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable for members of the Border Services Group as quickly as possible," the statement read.

Over 9,000 workers, who have been in a legal strike position since Thursday, could be part of any eventual job action. They include employees at airports, and land and marine ports of entry.

The CIU, which is affiliated with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and the CBSA have been in mediation since Monday.

Workers have been without a contract since the last one expired two years ago.

Being in a legal strike position doesn't necessarily mean CBSA workers will walk out after the deadline passes.

About 90 per cent of the border workers are deemed essential, the CBSA said in a statement. That means they must continue to do their jobs, but are free to participate in job action outside their working hours.

Trucks lined up along a bridge

As part of any job action, a work-to-rule campaign is a strong possibility, an associate professor says.

"You can create tremendous lineups of those trucks and tremendous lineups of people," said Ian Lee of the Sprott School of Business at Ottawa's Carleton University. "It'll be very, very disruptive if they do work-to-rule because so many people cross that border every day."

The union has noted job protections, pensions and automation as issues at the bargaining table. But they're also looking to secure wage parity with other law enforcement agencies, as well as the "25 and out" retirement provision.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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