July 30, 2021 | Circular No. 11306

Dear Member,

Further to CL 11304, we have learned that the Public Service Alliance of Canada (which is the union representing CBSA employees) and the Treasury Board (which is the agency representing the Government of Canada) agreed yesterday to return to the bargaining table in an effort to reach agreement on a new contract.

Should these negotiations fail to result in a negotiated settlement, the union will be in a legal strike position as of August 6, 2021. This being said, there is currently no certainty as to whether or when a strike would actually begin (should an agreement not be reached) or what form a strike would take (e.g. work-to-rule, full strike, rotating strike, etc.).

It is our understanding that about 90 percent of CBSA’s border service officers (BSO’s) perform duties / services that have been identified as “essential”, meaning they are necessary for the safety and security of the public, and must continue to be provided in the event of a strike. However, there are a number of services that are NOT covered by the “essential” designation, meaning that BSO’s whose positions include these services could refuse to provide them in a strike situation (although the employees could still be obliged to fulfill other aspects of their positions that ARE deemed as essential).

According to information provided by the union, services that are NOT covered by the “essential” designation (and which could therefore be withdrawn) include the following:

  • Assessing and collecting duties, taxes, fees and fines
  • Providing information to educate travelers, importers and exporters and to encourage voluntary compliance
  • Analysing data and information for inclusion in databases
  • Completing briefing notes, technical reports, client files, statements and seizure reports
  • Maintaining effective relations, interactions and exchanges with clients, stakeholders and law enforcement agencies.

Given that the “essential” designation applies to services/duties and not to positions (or job titles), it is challenging to assess which specific positions would be impacted in the event of a strike (since many positions involve a mix of essential and non-essential services).  Nevertheless, a slowdown or withdrawal of the types of services listed above could have cascading effects throughout the supply chain, which could extend to the movement of commercial traffic at the border and ports of entry.

We have been in contact with CBSA on this issue, and have underlined the need for greater clarity on the service impacts of a potential strike, and the contingency / mitigation measures that CBSA plans to implement in order to ensure the continuity of operations.

We wil continue to monitor this situation closely and will revert with additional information as it becomes available.


Karen Kancens
Vice President