Blue Water Bridge workers begin strike, traffic keeps flowing across border

POINT EDWARD, Ont. – Federal officials said traffic was flowing smoothly across Canada’s second-busiest commercial border crossing to the United States on Monday, despite a strike that began early in the day.

Workers at the Blue Water Bridge — which links Point Edward, Ont. near Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich. — began their strike at about 6 a.m. after giving the required 72-hour notice.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Federal Bridge Corporation negotiated during the weekend, but didn’t reach an agreement for the 47 unionized workers that staff the bridge.

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

The Federal Bridge Corporation says it will keep the traffic flowing with trained management and other non-union employees throughout the strike.

It says 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.

It notes, however, that no teller services will be available at the bridge’s currency exchange office during the labour disruption. ATMS are available.

Federal Bridge Corporation spokesman Andre Girard said traffic was moving well all day Monday. A government website that tracks all of Canada’s border crossings also said there were no significant delays at Blue Water Bridge.

“It’s been going extremely well,” Girard said. “The trained management personnel are at the toll booths and running the operations. Traffic is flowing very well right now.”

No bargaining talks are currently underway, nor have any dates for negotiations been set, Girard said.

The head of the local PSAC union representing the striking bridge workers said a number of the employees were holding signs and rallying near the bridge on Monday.

Paul Haney said traffic across the bridge would likely increase as American Thanksgiving and Black Friday approaches.

“They claim to have enough staff to cover it but I guess we will see,” he said of management and non-unionized staff now running bridge operations.

Haney added that the union was waiting for the bridge corporation to indicate when negotiations would resume.

“We are ready and willing to go back and sit down,” he said.

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.

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.