Canadian border services agents took to the sidewalks on Thunder Bay's south side on Monday, holding a demonstration as their union and employer continue to negotiate a new contract.

The employees — represented by the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), a division of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — held a lunch-hour demonstration outside of the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) Thunder Bay office on May Street North.

The union says employees have been without a contract for three years and eight months.

Wage parity, contracting out among issues

Among the outstanding issues, the union said, are wage parity with other law enforcement agencies, protections against contracting out and replacing border agents with machines, and better work/life balance provisions.

"There's a lot of serious things we do," Andrew Wiersema, the CIU's national young worker representative, told CBC News. "Even here at the Thunder Bay border crossing, they've had 14 kilograms of heroine they've seized. Just last year there was hundreds of prohibited knives and weapons that were meant to do harm to people."

Negotiations to resume

The CIU and CBSA are currently awaiting the results of a non-binding arbitration process, the union said, and expect negotiations to resume soon.

A spokesperson for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the border agents' employer, told CBC, "the government is committed to negotiating agreements that are fair and reasonable for employees and for Canadians."  

He said it will now wait for the Public Interest Commission to issue its recommendations before determining next steps.