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Canadian border workers could begin job action today. Here’s what you need to know

The union has set a deadline of 4 p.m. ET

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) workers across the country could take job action beginning this afternoon unless a deal is reached before the strike deadline.

Here’s what you need to know:

Who’s involved and what’s at stake?

Over 9,000 workers with CBSA, out of about 11,000 total workers, could be part of the job action.

It would include CBSA employees at airports and land and marine ports of entry.

They are represented by the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), which is affiliated with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

The union has set a deadline of 4 p.m. E.T. today. If no deal is reached by that time, the union says workers will take job action immediately.

While the workers would be on strike, it doesn’t mean they’ll be off the job.

About 90 per cent of workers represented by the union 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.

Possible job action could include “work to rule,” when workers could apply each and every one of their job’s rules and regulations.

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

For example, border officers could ask people, in each and every car, all of the questions permissible at a border crossing.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said that under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, employees deemed essential have to provide uninterrupted service and “cannot intentionally slow down border processing.”

When could we see job action?

The union says workers will begin job action if no deal is reached by 4 p.m., after workers voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action.

Both parties started a mediation process on Monday.

Has there been any progress?

The CIU said Thursday there were no updates regarding talks because mediation is ongoing.

“We are still hopeful an agreement can be reached but the clock is ticking if the government wants to avoid any potential delays at Canada’s borders,” said CIU spokesperson Pierre St-Jacques.

In a statement, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said it was “disappointed,” by the threat of job action.

“Negotiation is a process of give and take,” a spokesperson said. “The government is prepared to make concessions, but there needs to be movement on both sides. Canadians expect these outstanding issues to be resolved at the bargaining table swiftly, and the announced labour disruptions undermine the negotiation process.”

What issues are workers prepared to strike over?

Many of the issues on the table here are similar to those in other organizations: Worker protections, wages, and pensions and benefits.

But CIU president Mark Weber said they’re also looking for provisions similar to those of other law enforcement agencies, like the “25 and out” retirement provision.

He said they’re also looking for wage parity with RCMP officers, who he said make about 15 per cent more than CBSA officers.

Can Ottawa force CBSA workers to keep working?

Well, technically.

The government can legislate workers back to their jobs, if they deem it necessary, but that action is controversial.

Two people who cross the border regularly for work told CBC News the slowdowns would be a headache, but neither supported back-to-work legislation at this point.

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West, told CBC News on Wednesday that his party wouldn’t support back-to-work legislation.

What can I expect at Canada-U.S. borders?

In Windsor, Ont., representatives of two border crossings are urging both parties to come to an agreement.

“As in all operations, adjustments must be made from time to time to improve the way stakeholders work together, including the negotiation of collective agreements,” a statement from the Detroit International Bridge Company read.

“We will be working hard with the CBSA team to ensure there is minimal impact to the flow of trade and commuter traffic.”

Neil Belitsky, CEO for the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, told CBC News that travellers could check their website and social media for updates to wait times.

“We understand that both sides are diligently working on coming to agreement,” said Belitsky.

Would a strike impact the economy?

Trade organizations and employers with workers who cross the border regularly have sounded off about the possible impacts of job action.

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce said it has penned letters to both the union’s Weber and Anita Anand, president of the Treasury Board.

“Any strike by PSAC-CIU workers is going to have a major impact in our region, especially for local businesses,” said CEO Rakesh Naidu in a letter.

“Businesses that rely on a smooth and timely flow of cross-border goods and services could face significant challenges from this job action, including the automotive sector, which is heavily dependent on ‘just-in-time’ logistics.”

That letter was co-signed by other local chambers, as well as the chambers of commerce in Sault Ste. Marie and the Niagara region, which are also border communities with a lot riding on a potential strike.

Another industry group, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), warned job action could impact the $3.1 billion in goods crossing the borders each day, including $400 million crossing the Windsor-Detroit border.

“We are very concerned about the impacts that another critical supply chain disruption, this time at CBSA, will have on manufacturers,” said CME president Dennis Darby.

“Extended delays will disrupt operations and production schedules, harming manufacturers, and their workers. Once again, manufacturers are being held hostage from circumstances outside their control.”

This is from the 7 June 2024 edition of CBC News.

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CETA Frequently Asked Questions



Please find below clarification on some of the common questions that commonly being  asked about CETA and the Origin Declaration

-Do all goods manufactured in EU qualify for free of duty status under CETA

No, the goods must qualify under the Protocol on rules of origin and origin procedures section of the Text of the Comprehnesive Econonomic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

In addition, the documents must include the Origin Declaration the exact text of which may be found in Annex 2 of the Protocol

-Can another form of EU origin declaration be used in place of the Origin Declaration that is specified?

No, the Origin Declaration found in Annex 2 of the Protocol is the only accepted form of origin declaration that can be used when declaring duty free status under CETA.

-The Origin Declaration instructions in Annex 2 state that the words Canada/EU (or CM for products originating in Ceuta and Melilla) must be used, but my suppliers are telling me that is wrong (since Canada has no part of the origin of the goods) and the declaration should say, for example:  Italian origin,  France/Eu origin or EU origin only, is this correct?

This question has been asked by the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers, directly to Canada Border Services Agency and the published Q & A is shown below:

Several members have asked if the CETA Origin Declaration can include only words such as “Canada”, “Norwegian”, or “EU” in field 3 of the declaration. CBSA has responded with the following:

The short answer is no.

The purpose of the origin declaration is to certify that the goods are of CETA preferential origin. Simply stating “EU preferential origin” is akin to a Canadian exporter stating “Canada preferential origin”, which would be meaningless as there is no indication that the relevant products meet the Canada-EU CETA rule of origin. Consequently, originating goods are not “EU preferential origin” (as this could mean that they meet the requirements of any FTA that the EU has), but rather “Canada/EU” (or “CM”) origin as they need to meet the particular rules of origin for the Canada-EU CETA.

The text of the declaration is very clear, the statement is either “Canada/EU” or “CM”, and nothing else is acceptable. 

-I am importing goods which qualify as CETA origin under the Protocol rules but I am purchasing and shipping from a company in U.S.A. (or other non-CETA participating country), can I import these goods as duty free under CETA?

No, the CETA Accord requires that there be direct shipment from EU country to Canada (or through a 3rd country that has a free trade agreement with both EU and Canada)

-I am importing goods which qualify as CETA origin and are shipped directly from an EU country to Canada, but I have purchased the goods from a vendor in USA. Can the goods be imported duty free under the CETA accord and can the vendor, in USA, complete the Origin Declaration provided that the vendor has full knowledge and proof from the manufacturer/exporter that the goods do qualify for CETA under the Protocol.

This is a 2 part question and the answers are:

Yes, the goods can be imported duty free under CETA as long as they qualify under the Protocol and they are shipped directly from EU to Canada

No, the vendor cannot certify the Origin Declaration. Article 19.3 of the Protocol states: An origin declaration shall be completed and signed by the exporter.

-What is the exact text of Origin Declaration?

The exporter of the products covered by this document (customs authorization number) declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of Canada/EU origin

(Exception for products originating in Ceuta and Melilla, it must read: These products are of CM origin.

-Can my supplier issue a valid origin Declaration even though he has not received his  customs authorization number?

Yes, the customs authorization number may be left blank. The customs authorization number is for post audit procedures only and is not a requirement for the origin Declaration.

-Where must the Declaration be shown/attached, etc..

The Declaration can either be put directly on the commercial invoice or can be on the exporter’s letterhead provided that it refers directly to the invoice or otherwise clearly shows that it relates to the products being imported. The exporter can also use a blanket origin Delcaration. The declaration must be preceded with (Period From_______ to_______) the period can be as long as 12 months but must end no later than Dec 31st of the current calendar year.

-My supplier has supplied an origin Declaration but it is not signed or fully completed.

The CSCB has also asked for clarification on this. The reply was quite lengthy but boils down to the following points

1-Minor errors such as simple typing errors will be tolerated in most cases, however

2-Major errors in format (i.e. stating Norwegian origin instead of Canada/EU) will render the Declaration invalid

3-The origin Declaration must be fully completed. This means that it Place and Date fields must be completed , the name of the signatory must be clearly printed and the Declaration  MUST be signed.

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Canada, EU to provisionally apply CETA in September

Canada and the European Union have finally agreed on a date for provisional application of the oft-delayed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

The provisional application of the massive deal will come into effect on Sept. 21, according to a joint-statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, issued at the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg Saturday morning.

Speaking to reporters before leaving Germany, Trudeau said 98 per cent of the deal will come into effect on the Sept. 21 date…

The joint statement from the two leaders says the agreement “will enter definitively into force once the parliaments in all member states of the EU ratify the text according to their respective domestic constitutional requirements.”

Four EU countries have held ratification votes and approved CETA to date: Latvia, Denmark, Spain and Croatia…

Most of CETA was supposed to be provisionally applied by July 1, but it snagged on a dairy dispute…

The deal will drop barriers between the EU’s economy of half a billion people and Canada’s of 35 million. Trade between the two sides amounts to more than 60 billion euros ($88 billion Cdn) a year, and the EU expects CETA to boost this by 20 per cent by removing almost all tariffs…

This is excerpted from the 8 July 2017 edition of CBC News.

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