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The headlines for current month's news items are listed immediately below. Click on the headline of your choice to see the entire text of the article.

AAFC - Devolution of AgriStability Program

Kingston renews call for more CFIA inspectors

as Conservatives torpedo planned listeriosis inquiry

Photo montage highlights Mozambique community development work

supported by our Social Justice Fund


AAFC - Devolution of AgriStability Program

(Posted August 28, 2009)

Late last month, we reported our concerns over the Conservative government’s move to devolve the AgriStability program managed by the Farm Income Programs Directorate (FIPD) to provincial governments of Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

As is usually the case, rumours of this offloading were widespread inside FIPD long before the public announcement was made. In fact, over the past two years, the Agriculture Union has repeatedly raised this issue with senior AAFC management, only to be told that the employer could not comment in the absence of any ‘official’ applications by either the BC or Saskatchewan governments.

We nonetheless kept our Locals aware of the possible devolution of the AgriStability program to these additional provinces and continued to press AAFC for concrete answers.

The Farm Income Programs Directorate (FIPD) delivers large scale farm income programs on behalf of AAFC, focusing on two ongoing federal-provincial cost shared programs:
          • AgriStability (in all provinces except Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward island); and
          • AgriInvest (in all provinces expect Quebec).

FIPD has offices in both Winnipeg and Regina. Farm income programs are seasonal in nature and are managed by a mixture of full-time indeterminate, seasonal indeterminate, full-time term and seasonal term employees. The program is jointly funded by the Federal and Provincial governments on a 60/40 basis.

Last June 19, our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was notified officially that AAFC had agreed to the transfer of AgriStability program delivery to B.C. and Saskatchewan. Serious consideration was given to fighting this decision. However, after consultation with the affected parties, it was decided not to pursue it. The situation wasn’t one that lent itself to a successful campaign.

As approximately 70 per cent of AgriStability applications are from Saskatchewan and B.C., the devolution will have a significant impact on the number of staff required to deliver the program and will alter the size and composition of the FIPD.

The magnitude of the position loss is significantly greater than expected attrition rates. The Regina office will be completely closed and the Winnipeg office will be downsized, affecting a total of 440 employees – 365 in Winnipeg and 84 in Regina. This group includes 246 indeterminate and 194 term positions.

The majority of the positions affected are in the Assessment Services Division of FIPD. Some areas within the Government Liaison and Client Relations Division (contact centre, appeals and program promotions) that are closely linked to the AgriStability participant base will also see some reduction in positions. Specifically, positions at the CR-03, CR-04, PM-01, PM-02 levels and some PM-03 could be affected.

Subject to negotiations and final approvals, the anticipated transfer of work to British Columbia will start in December 2009 and to Saskatchewan in January 2010.

Some staff may indeed wish to transfer to the new provincial AgriStability administrations. However, fewer provincial positions will be created in the transfer of delivery: 144 in Saskatchewan and 16 in B.C. Location may also become a factor, as the new program offices will be located in Melville, Saskatchewan and in Kelowna, B.C.

Job fairs have been held at which representatives from both the Saskatchewan and British Columbia governments made presentations to our members.

The announcement of the devolution to the provinces triggers the Workforce Adjustment (WFA) provisions of the collective agreement for our members.

As per Appendix D, 1.1.3 of the collective agreement, three WFA committees have been struck: a National Committee and two Local Committees. Although term employees are not normally covered under the WFA, both the National and Local Committees have identified the concerns of terms employees and have included them in the Terms of Reference of the committees.

On the National WFA Committee, our members are represented by:

          • Bob Kingston (Co-chair of Committee) – National President;
          • Debbie Forsythe – First National Vice President;
          • Howard Willems – Third National Vice President;
          • Sam Barlin – Regional Vice President, Manitoba Northwestern Ontario and Nunavut;
          • Milton Dyck – Regional Vice President, Southern Saskatchewan;
          • Lindsey Sparks – Winnipeg Local President;
          • Dan Welsh – Regina Local President;
          • Sylvie Rochon – Agriculture Union Service Officer;
          • Howie West – PSAC Work Reorganization Officer; and
          • James Infantino – PSAC Pension & Disability Insurance Officer.

Agenda items discussed at the national level include:

     • Employee Transfer Agreements with the provinces;
     • Program Transfer Agreements;
     • Pension Transfer Agreements;
     • Employee questionnaire;
     • Communication with employees;
     • Update from local representatives;
     • Selection process for retention and lay-off; and
     • Open questions and answers.

National President Bob Kingston continues to be in touch with regional and local WFA Committee representatives on a regular basis. In addition, he met with Regina Office members on August 17 and will be meeting with our Winnipeg members on September 1.

The goal at this point is to ensure that our members, including term employees, are treated as fairly and equitably as possible. We will keep you informed of further developments.

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Kingston renews call for more CFIA inspectors as Conservatives torpedo planned listeriosis inquiry

(Posted August 27, 2009)

Conservative members of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee have successfully – and, seemingly sneakily – torpedoed opposition attempts to launch a public inquiry into last year’s deadly listeriosis crisis.

The convenient absence of the Tory-appointed Committee Chair temporarily provided the government M.P.s the majority needed to thwart efforts to examine the existence and effectiveness of measures taken by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to address recommendations of the Weatherill report and the Commons Food Safety Sub-committee.

At the same August 26 meeting, Agriculture Union National President Bob Kingston told Committee members that CFIA’s moves to date, although positive, had resulted in an even heavier workload for those inspectors actually on the processing floor. The answer, he said, was more inspectors and not more pressure on existing staff.

Without additional meat inspectors, Kingston predicted, “we think it's just a matter of time before we see another food crisis.”

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Photo montage highlights Mozambique community development work supported by our Social Justice Fund

(Posted August 1, 2009)

Community development work by the Zambo ni Zambo Team in the east-African country of Mozambique is but one of the projects currently supported by the Agriculture Union’s Social Justice Fund.

Zambo ni Zambo means "step by step" in the local Xitsua dialect. The Team works directly with the people of a number of villages linked to the town of Massinga to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the region.

While only seven young men and women make up the Team, their activities are impressive: establishing craft co-ops; community agricultural development; literacy classes; carpentry skills; and, community anti malarial campaigns.

We are pleased to highlight the work of the Zambo ni Zambo Team in the following montage of photos provided by Don Kossick of the Training for Health Renewal Program - Mozambique/Canada.

Photo of a weekly Team meeting

Work plans and community initiatives are discussed at a weekly team meeting in Massinga.

Photo of villagers

Zambo ni Zambo Team members work directly with villagers to document local decision-making.

Photo of village grassroots meeting

Grassroots participation is the key to turning project plans into reality.

Photo of Team members in front of new community development centre in the village of Tevele.

Some Team members in front of one of their major undertakings: the construction of a community development centre in the village of Tevele.

Photo of a communitymgarden  Photo of used clothing marketplace

Encouragement of community gardens and creating a network of used clothing sales are two examples of low-cost but effective community development work.

Photo of leader of a community health group

The leader of a community health group in the village of Basso uses the diagram of a bicycle to illustrate the need for all parts of a community to come together for meaningful change.

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