Monday, June 24, 2024

Manufacturing business in Brockville, Ont. concerned about looming CBSA strike

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Canarm Limited, a ventilation company with its headquarters in Brockville, Ont., is concerned about what a potential strike by employees with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) would do for business.

About 9,000 CBSA workers have been without a contract for two years. The union representing the workers say 96 per cent voted in favour of strike action last week, which could begin as soon as Thursday.

CBSA personnel are calling for fair wages in line with other law enforcement agencies across the country and equitable retirement benefits. Another concern is technology taking over jobs, like kiosks that have popped up at Canadian airports.

While most CBSA workers are considered essential, and the border will remain open, many in the tourism and manufacturing sector worry a strike could create significant delays.

“The border is a critical, critical link to us being successful as a manufacturer in Canada,” said Jim Cooper, the CEO of Canarm Limited. “We’ve got product crossing the border every single day of the week.”

There are three main border crossings in eastern Ontario – Prescott, Cornwall and Thousand Islands.

The company receives raw materials for their products from the United States and also ship finished products there.

“How much is too much for us to handle? And you cut into our profitability. Every time we have to hold more inventory, you cut into our profitability, so it’s painful,” Cooper added.

“Every minute counts. So they need to get this solved.”

During the summer, Brockville’s tourist industry counts on Americans heading north.

“This is a big tourism area for the Americans coming over,” said Pamela Robertson, executive director for the Brockville Chamber of Commerce.

“It is the start of our summer season, so it will have a big impact if people are prolonged at the border.”

Residents in Brockville also frequently visit the U.S. for shopping. Ogdensburg, N.Y. is roughly a 30 minute drive away. Some said a slower border crossing might make them change their plans.

“Yes it would,” said Brockville resident David Bessant. “That would deter me from going.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said Tuesday evening that members of its customs and immigration union will begin job action at 4 p.m. Friday if a deal is not reached.

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