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Strike at Canada’s second-busiest commercial border crossing enters second week

Pam Domenichini and fellow workers of the Blue Water Bridge picket at the bridge administration building, next to the span between Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, in Sarnia, Ontario.


A strike at Canada's second-busiest commercial border crossing to the United States has entered its second week.

Workers at the Blue Water Bridge – which links Point Edward, Ont. near Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich. – began their strike on Nov. 21.

No talks are scheduled between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Federal Bridge Corporation, which means the bridge's 47 unionized workers remain on strike.

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Those workers are responsible for collecting tolls, maintenance, janitorial services and currency exchange at the bridge.

The Federal Bridge Corporation says it is keeping traffic flowing with trained management and other non-union employees working at the bridge throughout the strike.

But the head of the local union says that's not a sustainable situation over the long term.

"If they're doing our jobs, who is doing theirs?" asked Paul Haney. "We're still out here, we're unified, we're strong and we're just waiting to get back to the table."

Haney said the union is willing to resume negotiations.

"We just want to get back to the table and get a fair contract," he said. "''We are prepared to stay out here as long as it takes." The union has said the employer wants cuts to workers' benefits and has demanded major concessions that would have set workers back years. The Federal Bridge Corporation claims PSAC refused to negotiate in good faith.

Las week, the union had raised concerns about how the bridge corporation would be able to handle increased traffic flow around American Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but a spokesman for the Federal Bridge Corporation said the high-volume period had been handled successfully.

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"We've been busy but we faced the challenge of Black Friday and the long weekend really well," said bridge corporation spokesman Andre Girard. "It was not as hard as we anticipated."

Girard said the bridge corporation's main objective is to get all employees back to work.

"We all want this to be resolved as soon as possible but we'll hold the fort as long as is needed," he said.

The Federal Bridge Corporation has said management and non-unionized staff have obtained certification for overseeing the transportation of hazardous materials, as well as training for toll operation and other related bridge operation duties.

No teller services are available at the bridge's currency exchange office during the labour disruption. ATMS are also not available.

The bridge is a major link between Canada and the U.S. and carries in excess of 15,000 vehicles on peak days, making it the second-busiest commercial border crossing after the one at Windsor, Ont.

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