Canada border officer strike leads to long lines, delays for trucks needing to cross

UPDATECanada border strike ends in agreement after 36 hours of negotiations

Canadian customs officers began a work-to-rule strike at the border at 6 a.m. Friday  and warned it would lead to long delays. And, sure enough, truck drivers are feeling the impact. 

The commercial vehicles are lined up, essentially at a standstill, all across the Ambassador Bridge. There’s a 6.2-mile line at the Port Huron entry, too.  

“There will be no picket lines, everybody will be in the workplace, what that means is we’ll be doing our job to the letter of the law,” said Rick Savage, 1st National Vice President of the CIU. “We, as border officers, administer over 97 different laws and acts of Canada. We routinely, maybe not ignore, but we push aside certain things that may not have the importance, you know, at the time to uh, to allow for the borders to function smoothly. So, if we work to rule, it’s going to result in significant delays to both the traveling public as well as to the commercial stream.”

Michigan State Police tweeted that the delay is causing a backup across Interstate 75 from the Ambassador Bridge all the way to the Rouge River Bridge and urged all noncommercial traffic to avoid the area.

The Michigan Department of Transportations later tweeted that northbound I-75 was backed up to Outer Drive, that southbound 75 was backed up to Mack Avenue, an that eastbound I-96 was backed up to West Grand Boulevard.

In Port Huron, an entrance to the Blue Water Bridge has been closed because of the heavy traffic, the Times Herald reported

“Eastbound I-94/I-69 is backed up as well with traffic attempting to cross the Blue Water Bridge,” Kuehn said in an email to the Times Herald. “Please avoid traveling Pine Grove Avenue near the Blue Water Bridge if at all possible.”

MSP and Michigan Department of Transportation Bay Region spokeswoman Jocelyn Hall both say that, although the heavy congestion may be annoying, it is out of their control as all border security jurisdiction lies with the border security agencies. 

The strike comes with the border set to reopen at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Members of two unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union, say striking was the last resort –– they’ve been without a contract for three years and say they feel they’ve exhausted all other options.

Savage told the Free Press on Thursday that the unions did not intentionally plan a job action when the border was set to reopen. 

Traffic is backed up on Interstate 75 leading to the Ambassador Bridge headed into Canada due to a Canadian Border Patrol strike, in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

“We started this about a month and a half ago,” Savage said. “I know it’s hard to believe, but we did not know when we started the strike action that the border would be reopened to vaccinated Americans in August. So, it is obviously a strategic boon for us, but it was something that we didn’t expect.”

The unions have reportedly been in meetings with the Canada Border Services Agency all night and throughout the day. 

Semi-trucks were backed up on I-94 and I-69 are backed up, waiting to get to the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron on August 6, 2021. On I-69, trucks were backed up more than 7 miles west to the Wadham's exit.

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as a dynamic and responsive organization that delivers high-quality border services, will respond quickly to any job action/work disruption in order to maintain the safety and security of our border, ensure compliance with our laws, and keep the border open to legitimate travellers and goods,” said CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Callin.