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Canadian border unions begin strike action

A view of the Peace Bridge Canadian plaza from a NITTEC camera
There is little traffic at the Peace Bridge Friday morning, as border guard unions begin strike action.

Canadian Border guards have begun a work action intended to "cause significant disruption" at border crossings across the country.

The unions gave official strike notice to the government Tuesday that it either agree to a new contract or plan for "slower processing and longer wait times." Both sides went back to bargaining table, but the union said there still is "no new mandate to address core workplace issues," including a "toxic workplace culture" and "parity with other law enforcement personnel across Canada."

The union had said members would begin a "sweeping" series of actions at Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations. There won't be picket lines at work sites, "because work-to-rule action will have a far greater impact on Canada’s critical supply chain and the federal government’s plans to reopen the border to U.S. travelers on August 9th," according to the union.

Canada is preparing to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit without having to quarantine starting Monday.

Guards have been told to "ask every question" in the manual and "perform duties to the letter of the law." Other types of strikes, including a general strike, rotating strikes and strategic strikes, are still options under consideration.

The Treasury Board of Canada said a mediator was appointed by the federal relations body and mediations had been ongoing since Wednesday evening. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the issue Thursday, touting the government's record on resolving labor negotiations.

About 8:30 a.m. Friday, there was a long line of trucks waiting to enter Canada at the Rainbow Bridge and little other vehicular traffic. By 9:30 a.m., truck traffic was also backed up across the Lewiston Queenston and Peace bridges.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.