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Customs officer union demands more hires as travel turbulence continues

The union representing customs officers says the Canada Border Services Agency is not moving fast enough to fill vacancies that have contributed to slowed airport traffic and ramped up passenger frustration over the past few months.
Airport line, travel

The union representing customs officers says the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is not moving fast enough to fill vacancies that have contributed to slowed airport traffic and ramped up passenger frustration over the past few months.

The Customs and Immigration Union says the CBSA "has no plan to get travel back on track anytime soon," with a major labour crunch contributing to customs bottlenecks and tarmac delays since April.

The union's call for between 1,000 and 3,000 more hires comes as it wraps up its first round of bargaining with the federal government over a new collective agreement, with problems around clogged airports and border crossings poised to increase during peak travel season.

The CBSA has said it is making more workers and student officers available, along with additional automated kiosks in Toronto's Pearson airport customs area.

Earlier this month, Ottawa suspended randomized COVID-19 testing at airports — a process that had bogged down the flow of passengers — and added more public-health staff to verify travellers have completed their ArriveCan app submissions upon landing.

Mark Weber, the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union told The Sam Laprade Show on Monday, June 27 that the number of frontline workers has gone down consistently over the past few years, which includes pre-pandemic. 

Weber said the lack of frontline workers, combined with the new requirements of the ArriveCAN app and the heavy reliance on technology has created a perfect storm that results in long wait times, and the few officers that are available are spending more time helping people complete the ArriveCAN app rather than tending to other border officer functions. 

He said that a plan imposing mandatory overtime and limiting vacation for border officers are both only short-term fixes. 

"When mandatory overtime is being implemented, that's a desperate situation," he added. 

He said the long-term solution is to hire anywhere between 2,000-3,000 new people. 

"What we can do now is to make sure we don't have the same conversations next year," he said. "We are lost as to how this wasn't planned for in advance. Coming out of COVID, with travel resuming, people are going to want to travel."

Listen to the full interview with Mark Weber below:

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2022.

With files from CityNews Ottawa. 

 

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