HIGHGATE, Vt. (AP) – Vermonters who are heading into Quebec this weekend might spend more time waiting at the border than usual. Canadian Customs agents plan a work slowdown to show their dissatisfaction about a pay dispute.

Erica Holmes, who works in Highgate for the customs brokerage firm A.N. Deringer, said the effects were obvious Thursday on Interstate 89 as it enters Quebec at Highgate Springs.

“It’s as bad as I’ve seen it since 9/11,” Holmes said. “There are trucks and cars backed up for almost a mile.”

The Canadian Excise Union, with 4,200 uniformed Canadian Customs employees as members, has been leading the slowdown along the U.S.-Canadian border for much of the summer. Heavier-than-normal traffic is expected as Quebec’s midsummer two-week break for the construction industry comes to a close and vacationers return to the province after vacationing in the United States.

“There are going to be long waits,” said Erik Lupien, communications officer for the union from his Ottawa office.

The dispute between the union and the federal government began in 2000, when the duties of customs officials were expanded to include criminal enforcement responsibilities. The Canadian federal government promised that the added duties would be accompanied by a pay review – a promise on which, the union says, the government has failed to deliver.

“Officers in Canada are realizing if they worked 600 feet to the south, they’d be getting paid twice what they’re now being paid,” Lupien said.

Lupien said about 750 uniformed Canadian Custom officers are stationed in Quebec.

, many of them at airports in Montreal and at large border crossings like those near Highgate Springs and Derby Line.


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