Victoria businesses concerned as Canadian border workers consider strike

Victoria businesses concerned as Canadian border workers consider strike
The cruise ship terminal at Ogden Point in Victoria is pictured.

Last week, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) voted 96 per cent in favour of striking if their demands aren’t met, and that’s causing some unease for businesses on Vancouver Island.

The PSAC represents around 9,000 border patrol workers across Canada.

Those who rely on tourism business across the border are nervous that if a strike does occur, financial losses are inevitable.

Dorothy Morrison, managing director of Imagine Studio Cafe, operates just blocks away from the cruise ship ferry terminals in downtown Victoria.

“We might see 600 [people] a week coming in. It will greatly effect [us] if there is a reduction in numbers,” said Morrison.

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Mark Weber, president for the PSAC for custom and immigration workers, told CHEK News that there are many elements on the table that need to be met in order for the union to not go on strike.

“Our collective agreement expired almost two years ago,” said Weber, who added that the union also wants to help solve the shortage of employees at the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA).

“To give you an idea of how extreme it is, we make up about three percent of the federal public service – we take up about twenty percent of the overtime paid out by the federal public service.”

The union is still hoping to avoid a similar situation when travelers were forced to line up for hours after the union went on strike in 2021. The strike only lasted 36 hours but took a toll on business in B.C.’s capital city.

The CBSA website stated that it will do everything possible to arrive at an agreement. It adds that if there is strike action, the public should know that 90 per cent of frontline border services employees are designated as essential, meaning they must continue providing services during a strike.

If a strike were to happen, navigating across the border by sea may not be a swell time for travelers.

In a statement, the Victoria Clipper fast ferry says it’s hoping for a solution, but if there isn’t one, it will come up with a contingency plan and will share that plan with anyone hoping to travel between Victoria and Seattle.

Mediation between the Custom and Immigrations Union and the CBSA begins June 3.

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