Spat over name tags causing border delays in southwestern Ontario
Vehicles cross the Blue Water bridge in Sarnia, Ontario, Friday, March 20, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012 6:39AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:40AM EST
Tiny tags are causing big delays at two border crossings from Ontario into the United States.
The disruption hinges on name tags the Canada Border Services Agency wants its officers to wear.
"Personalized name tags reflect our commitment to service excellence and reinforce the professionalism and integrity for which CBSA officers are known," the agency said in a statement.
But some members of the Customs and Immigration union disagree, seeing the IDs as a potential avenue for disgruntled travellers denied entry to seek their revenge, and are refusing to work in protest.
As a result, traffic flowing into Canada from the U.S. at both the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor-Detroit and the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia-Port Huron is experiencing longer-than-usual delays.
In its public statement, the CBSA said it was "surprised by the extent of the reaction" and that, "illegal actions and inappropriate behaviour on the part of our employees will be dealt with accordingly."
In a Dec. 5 memo to the CIU membership, union president Jean-Pierre Fortin said their "health and safety concerns" with the name policy had been raised on several occasions dating back to March 2011, including a conference call on Nov. 27.
"We also told management that they should not be surprised by a serious push-back from many of our members who fear for their safety and health and who are determined to pursue every redress option available," Fortin said.
That memo advised members to take an "obey now, grieve later" approach, rather than face "unnecessary discipline from the employer."
Frontline staff concerned about revealing their identity publicly, he said, "should consider removing or amending the listing of their name in public forums."
The CBSA stands behind its policy, however, as it notes other frontline members of the Canadian Forces, Correctional Service Canada and United States Customs and Border Protection all wear name tags on the job.
The union said it is investigating the possibility of a legal challenge, but noted the Toronto Police Association lost a similar case at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
According to the CBSA’s border wait-time website, commercial traffic into Canada was held up approximately 45 minutes at the Blue Water Bridge, and 30 minutes at the Ambassador bridge Wednesday morning.