Border workers' union says 'two-tier system' at CBSA creates toxic environment
VANCOUVER -- The union representing thousands of front-line employees working without a contract at the Canadian border has released a scathing new video accusing management at the Canada Border Services Agency of "abuse of authority" and "harassment."
The video, which runs just under two minutes, features two alleged incidents where the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) says supervisors assaulted employees but were never disciplined.
"We feel there's a two-tier system at CBSA," said CIU national president Jean-Pierre Fortin. "One for the managers, and one for the employees, our members."
Fortin said incidents reported by its workers include a male supervisor who physically assaulted a female officer in front of a witness, and a manager who punched a border services officer in the face unprovoked.
CTV News is unable to independently verify the allegations and when asked, Fortin declined to go into details, but said he was fairly certain neither of the cases were before the courts.
In a written statement, CBSA media relations manager Ashley Lemire told CTV News, in part:
"The CBSA is committed to providing a work environment where all employees are treated with respect and dignity. As a law enforcement agency entrusted with protecting Canada's borders, the CBSA holds its employees to a high standard of conduct. The CBSA takes all allegations of harassment seriously. Following investigations where all parties are represented, if allegations are determined to be founded, appropriate discipline will follow. "
Canada's Public Safety Ministry did not respond.
Fortin also called the CBSA "very heavy handed on discipline" when it came to suspending members suspected of workplace violations, but lenient when it came to enforcing its policies on some of its upper ranks.
The CBSA's Lemire responded: "CBSA stands behind all of its employees at all levels, in particular those who have been harassed in the workplace. The CBSA will continue to work with all employees to actively build a healthier culture that is free from workplace harassment, discrimination and violence."
As part of its latest round of bargaining, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the CIU are proposing new whistleblower protections and asking the government to launch "an independent, third party investigation to look into these serious abuses of power by managers."
When questioned about the motive behind the video, Fortin told CTV News it was created in response to an internal CBSA video published a couple of months ago that dealt with "discipline" that members found both belittling and threatening.
He also pointed to the 2018 Public Service Employee Survey where 40 per cent of CBSA workers surveyed disagreed that their workplace was "psychologically healthy," while 23 per cent of public service workers as a whole felt the same way.
The next round of bargaining, which covers some 7,000 front line CBSA workers, and over 10,500 employees total is set to resume in January.
"We do realize that it's going to months and months to re-establish that trust," Fortin said.