Volume 95, Issue 38
Thursday, November 8, 2001
Students can kiss jobs goodbye
Borders to be staffed by full-time officers
By Jessica Leeder
Students who spend their summer manning the country's borders could be out of luck next year if two union presidents have their way.
Presidents of the Customs Excise Union and the Canada Employment and Immigration Union are calling for student jobs at border crossings and Canadian immigration offices to be replaced with better trained, full-time workers.
"There is very little done to monitor the actual performance of students and how many of them intend to return," said Serge Charette, national president of the CEU, a union representing full-time customs officers.
"We don't have a problem with the students themselves they're hardworking, but they only get two weeks of training whereas full-time customs inspectors have up to 14 weeks," Charette said.
"It may be inappropriate to ask a person with only two weeks of training to perform their duties flawlessly."
CEIU president Cres Pascucci, who represents immigration officers, said students are being done wrong when they are denied "proper" training for their jobs.
"Unions have different approaches to students, but we don't consider them our enemy we consider them exploited workers. Our position is that students should be part of the bargaining unit," Pascucci said.
Michael Bailey, a third-year media, information and technoculture student, worked for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency this summer at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario. He acknowledged the small training period part-time workers undergo, but said the training process in its entirety has room for reform.
"The whole system needs to be tighter. Compared to some of the full-time officers I was working with, I was just as capable as any of them," he said. "In general, I don't trust the border to many of those [full-time] people, though I wouldn't trust it to many students either."
Heather Polc, a second-year psychology student at King's College, also worked at the Peace Bridge this summer. She said some students are more careful than full-time border workers.
"Students get trained every year, regardless of whether they are new or returning. If you just learn something, it is fresh in your mind," she said.
Polc said she feels the unions' security concerns are warranted and noted students working at the border, in her experience, are never left without a full-time supervisor to consult.
"If I ever had a problem or was confused while working, there was always someone I could call," she said. "We're never really left alone to defend the country. There is so much full-time staff on."
A media spokesperson for the federal ministry of citizenship and immigration declined to comment.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001