Canadian border guards are demanding a 29 per cent pay raise, and they’re promising a “long, hot summer” of lineups and delays if the feds don’t cave. Union leaders are armed with the typical list of complaints, from increasing workloads to dangerous conditions, but their main argument boils down to this: now that we have to carry guns like police officers, we should he paid like police officers.
When negotiations resume later this year, however, there’s one thing union members can’t grumble about: the air they breathe.
For years, front-line border guards have suspected that all those idling engines pose a major health hazard. Inspection-booth workers were so worried about dangerous side-effects—including cancer—that Ottawa agreed to pay $100,000 to study the air quality at four separate border crossings.
The results? Levels of nitric oxide, sulphur dioxide and other potentially harmful substances are “well below” the legal workplace limits set by the feds and the provinces. At all four crossings, for example, the concentration of carbon monoxide was no more than 0.51 parts per million—50 times less than the maximum limit. “As a result,” reads the report, obtained by Maclean’s under the Access to Information Act, “no mitigation is required to improve air quality.”
Or sound quality. According to the study, the endless hum of honking horns and hulking transport trucks is also within acceptable limits. At the Lansdowne, Ont., crossing, for instance, the loudest noise measured 79-7 decibels, or “equivalent to the sound of a hair dryer or alarm clock.”
Ron Moran, president of the Customs Excise Union, says he is satisfied with the findings. “This is one instance where the employer must be credited,” he says. “There are many issues keeping me up at night. This isn’t one of them.” M
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