Travelers and commercial traffic entering Canada should expect long lines and lengthy delays at border crossings and airports starting Friday with nearly 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency employees set to go on strike across the country.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union served a formal strike notice to the government Tuesday, less than a week before Canada is scheduled to open its border to vaccinated U.S. residents for the first time in 17 months.

The two sides were scheduled to return to the negotiating table Wednesday, but union officials said their “work-to-rule’’ strike action would start at 6 a.m. Friday if a new contract isn’t negotiated.

“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract with the government,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president, in a statement Wednesday announcing the strike date. Canadian agency officials "have been clear they aren’t prepared to address critical workplace issues at CBSA at the bargaining table."


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The unions said "sweeping strike activity" will take place at all Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations and could have a dramatic impact on Canada’s supply chain as well as the entry of U.S. travelers that is set to start Monday.

“We’ve continued to serve Canadians throughout the pandemic — keeping our borders safe, screening travelers for COVID-19 and clearing vital vaccine shipments,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president. “Now it’s time for the government to step up for CBSA employees.”

Unionized employees with PSAC and the Customs and Immigration Union have been without a contract for over three years. They are seeking better protections against a toxic workplace culture at the Canada Border Services Agency, and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada.