By Paul Vieira

OTTAWA--The union representing Canadian border agents said over 90% of its members have voted to go on strike as soon as next month, posing a risk to billions of dollars in daily crossborder commercial trade between the U.S. and Canada.

A strike could bring crossborder truck traffic to a standstill at designated crossings along the 4,000-mile U.S.-Canadian border, and marks a second threat this summer to the North American supply-chain network. Canada could face a possible simultaneous strike at the country's two main railroads, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Kansas City, some time in July. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned this week such an event could have "significant impacts" for agriculture trade, producers and consumers.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said its 9,000 members who work at the Canada Border Service Agency would be in a legal strike position once a federal labor-board committee delivers a report recommending how the employer, the Canadian government, and the union can settle differences on a new agreement. That report could be published in early June, the union said.

Canada said 90% of the border agency's employees are deemed essential workers, so they need to stay on the job during a so-called strike action. However, as they did in a nearly daylong partial strike in August 2021, border agents would conduct a work-to-rule campaign, which triggered a decline in productivity and long delays to process shipments and travelers at Canadian land crossings, airports and shipping ports. During the 2021 labor disruption, commercial truckers in the U.S. faced delays of up to four hours to enter Canada at major land crossings in Michigan, Vermont, New York, North Dakota, Montana, and Washington.

Canadian government data estimates that $2.6 billion of goods and services crosses the U.S.-Canada border on a daily basis.

The union said it is seeking an increase in wages that are aligned with other law-enforcement agencies across the country, and other improvements in retirement benefits and hours of work.

Canada's Treasury Board, the department that handles day-to-day administrative operations and labor negotiations, said while it recognizes that workers have the right to strike, "at this time it is unnecessary. We are ready and willing to return to the bargaining table at any time."

The decision by border agents to take possible strike action in June "adds another element of significant risk for the flow of goods between Canada and the U.S.," said Pascal Chan, director of transportation and infrastructure at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. "This further jeopardizes predictability for businesses while escalating uncertainty for Canadian families who are contending with an increased cost of living."

Last year, Canada had to deal with strikes at its Pacific-Coast ports and the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is the trade route connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.

Write to Paul Vieira at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-24-24 1114ET