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What a CBSA strike could look like, according to an expert

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Slowed or interrupted travel, the passing of goods and significantly restricted borders should be expected if Canadian border workers take upcoming strike action.

More than 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) union members voted in favour of a strike mandate on Friday, with possible strike action starting as early as June.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents CBSA border officers at all points of entry, says it has been without an updated collective agreement for two years, while negotiations have not progressed.

"…There's a lot of people going through [the Canada-U.S. border]," Ian Lee, a professor at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, told CTV's Your Morning on Monday. "Five million in March of this year came back to Canada, five million Canadians, and that's not even talking about the $2.5 billion of goods that cross the border daily, so it can have a huge negative impact on the economy."

Lee says the effects of strike action would be felt the most at Canada's busiest border crossings, including those in Windsor and Vancouver. There, travellers would experience the most significant travel delays and the Canadian economy would be most at risk.

"In those largest CMAs (census metropolitan areas), that's where the impact is going to be felt the hardest," Lee said.

While Lee says that travellers should expect delays amid a strike, the federal government says "90 per cent of front-line border services employees are designated as essential, meaning they must continue providing services during a strike."

In response to the strike vote, the Canadian government said in a statement that labour action is a "legitimate part of collective bargaining," but that a strike is "unnecessary."

"We believe these opportunities can provide a clear path to an agreement without the undue hardship for employees and the public caused by a strike," the statement reads in part.

The groups will begin mediation on June 3.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Luca Caruso-Moro

Correction

This article has been updated to clarify that most border service employees are designated essential, meaning even in the event of a strike, they would continue to provide border services.

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