Canadian Border Agency, Staff Agree on Tentative Labor Deal

Cross-Border Freight Flows Would Have Been Impacted by a Strike
Canada border
A truck approaches the Canada-U.S. border in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec. (Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg News)

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 Unionized Canadian border agency staff and the federal government reached a tentative deal on a collective bargaining agreement for more than 9,500 staff, the two sides said June 11.

Employees of the Canada Border Services Agency were threatening as late as June 11 to go on strike starting June 14, labor action that would have caused long delays for trucks at border crossings.

Some 5.5 million trucks crossed the 49th parallel on a northbound journey in 2023, according to American Trucking Associations data, with U.S. exports to Canada by truck jumping 140% since 1995.

Full details of the deal were to be announced June 13 once a ratification kit was made available to Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union members, the unions said.

“Our bargaining team has been working around the clock to secure the best contract for our members, and this tentative agreement is a testament to their incredible hard work and dedication,” PSAC National President Sharon DeSousa said. 

“This is a well-deserved victory for our members at CBSA who safeguard our nation’s borders and ensure the safety and security of all Canadians,” she added.

The unions sought wage alignment with other law enforcement agencies, flexible telework and remote work options, improved retirement benefits for CBSA law enforcement personnel and stronger workplace protections.

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which represented Canadian authorities in the talks, said the collective agreement will include wage enhancements and other benefits for employees. “In the end, an agreement was reached that is fair for employees and reasonable for Canadians,” it said.

“This tentative agreement demonstrates that the best agreements are always reached at the bargaining table. Border Services employees are critical to the safety and security of our borders, and this tentative agreement recognizes the importance of that work while remaining reasonable for taxpayers,” noted Treasury Board President Anita Anand. 

Talks between border agency staff began June 3. The unions initially gave the government a 4 p.m. EDT June 7 deadline. Action was averted as the seconds ticked down to the initial deadline, however, as the two sides agreed to extend talks with the assistance of a mediator. A deadline of June 12 was then extended to 12:01 a.m. EDT June 14. 

Before the initial deadline, union representatives had indicated that talks were making progress.

Sharon DeSousa


“We are still hopeful we can avoid a strike and potential disruptions at Canada’s borders,” DeSousa had said late June 10. “No worker wants a strike, but we’ve set a firm deadline for this government to come to the table with a fair agreement.”

However, state trucking associations and carriers had been preparing for much slower passage of vehicles at border crossing points even though CBSA employees cannot walk off the job. 
C.H. Robinson Worldwide Vice President for Canada Mike Burkhart told Transport Topics as the talks progressed that carriers needed to prepare for a work slowdown, with workers sticking to the clock and performing all duties to the fullest extent.

Sheri Call


Washington Trucking Associations CEO Sheri Call told TT that she was expecting long border waits, an increased cost of transportation or a crimping of trade if trucks decided not to carry out cross-border trips.

During a labor action in 2021, trucks faced waits of four to five hours, said Burkhart, whose company ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America and manages 650,000 shipments across the Canadian border a year.

The top three U.S.-Canada border crossings by truck in 2023 were Detroit, Port Huron, Mich., and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.


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Carriers were preparing hurriedly to avoid bottlenecks before the deal was announced.

“In anticipation of potential delays due to border congestion, we have contingency plans in place, and are working closely with our customers and brokers, to minimize impacts on our cross-border services,” Danny Cipollone, Purolator International general manager and head of customs brokerage, said in an email.

Purolator International is the cross-border package and freight arm of Mississauga, Ontario-based Purolator, which ranks No. 20 on the TT Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

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