The president of a union that represents thousands of employees at the Canada Border Services Agency says members are reporting abuse at work, including physical assault and inappropriate gestures.
Jean-Pierre Fortin, the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said members say they have been abused by managers at work, with some incidents involving physical touching.
The union, along with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents some CBSA members, issued a statement last week calling on the agency to immediately address “abuse of authority and harassment by management.” The unions also released a video.
“CBSA may think the union won’t address it. We will," the video says in large scrolling words. "Harassment and workplace violence are happening at CBSA. When a manager is the perpetrator, CBSA turns a blind eye.”
Ashley Lemire, a spokeswoman for CBSA, said the organization takes all allegations of harassment seriously.
“The CBSA is committed to providing a work environment where all employees are treated with respect and dignity,” Ms. Lemire said in a statement. She said the agency reviews such allegations in an impartial and objective manner, and if they are determined to be founded, “appropriate discipline will follow.”
She said harassment allegations are reviewed consistently, and all investigations are conducted by third-party, external investigators.
Some of the examples of incidents reported by PSAC and CIU members include a male supervisor physically assaulting a female officer in front of several witnesses without repercussions, a manager forcing officers to conduct an illegal strip search of a bus full of students, and a manager punching a border services officer in the face. Mr. Fortin said it’s difficult to know the number of complaints because there are different avenues to file them, including to managers directly.
The Globe and Mail could not verify the allegations, and Mr. Fortin said he could not provide further details without members’ consent. He said that since the unions released their statement and video, he has received more phone calls from members about workplace harassment, such as inappropriate gestures.
“We are highlighting the fact that it’s a two-tier system. If an officer were caught doing the same thing, I have no doubt they would be immediately fired,” Mr. Fortin added.
Mr. Fortin said the CIU will follow up on the new allegations.
The unions are in negotiations with the agency on a new contract, and the next round of bargaining will take place in January. Mr. Fortin said the unions have “clear demands” on harassment and want language written into the contract to protect members.
Scott Bardsley, a spokesman in the office of the Minister of Public Safety, said harassment is “completely unacceptable” and that the government is determined to eliminate it.