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Canadian Government, Border Agents in Labor Contract Talks

A new round of labor negotiations began this week between the Canadian government and negotiators for the union that represents border agents (The Wall Street Journal, subscription).

What’s going on: “Canada border agents will be in a legal strike position as of this Thursday, the union said. The Public Service Alliance of Canada has warned that its 9,000 members who work at the Canada Border Services Agency could start a work-to-rule campaign unless its key demands, most notably higher pay, are addressed in a new collective bargaining agreement.”

  • Border agents have been operating without a contract for more than two years.

Why it’s important: Though most frontline border agents are considered essential and thus cannot technically go on strike, they could start “work-to-rule,” under which employees do precisely what is outlined in their contracts and no more.

  • Agents used work-to-rule in 2021, “trigger[ing] a decline in productivity and long delays to process shipments and travelers at Canadian land crossings, airports and shipping ports.”
  • Approximately $2.6 billion “in U.S.–Canada trade in goods and services crosses the border each day.”
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