Union News:

New process for designating essential services can cause confusion

As part of every negotiations round for a new contract, all bargaining units must have essential service positions ‘designated’ as being essential to the ‘safety and security of the public’. No legal strike can take place without one and employees occupying those positions must remain on the job in the event of a walkout.

PSAC pre-election advertising campaign highlights food safety issue

A likely million drivers who took to Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway during the recent Pan-American Games were treated to a sight of an arresting billboard – an image of blood draining from a maple leaf along with an exhortation to Vote to Stop the Cuts. The vivid display was part of a major campaign launched by our bargaining agent, the Public Service, to focus public attention on the major damage the Harper government has inflicted on public services. The Vote to Stop the Cuts campaign includes billboards, posters, radio ads and targeted Web and social media content. It encourages Canadians to cast a ballot in the next federal election for candidates who oppose further cuts and seek to restore vital public services. Food safety is one of the half-dozen featured issues of the PSAC campaign. Other topics are support for veterans, border security, search and rescue, employment Insurance and environmental protection. Information on this comprehensive public campaign, including the specific ad on food safety, can be viewed...

Inspection understaffing threatens summer BBQ season

A backyard or cottage BBQ is one of the great Canadian pleasures that banish thoughts of frigid Februaries. However, BBQers in Ontario and across the country should be on their guard as chronic understaffing in food inspection could well impact the safety of the meat and poultry they’re throwing on that griddle. This high-risk situation was revealed in a staffing survey released by the Agriculture Union at a July 28 Toronto news conference. It was based on a report of the inspection situation by frontline Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff and the CFIA’s own 2015-16 Report on Plans and Priorities. The survey found Toronto area inspection teams frequently operate with only two-thirds of the required number of slaughter inspectors. Central and South Western Ontario regions are also operating with fewer than the number of inspectors needed to ensure compliance with safety requirements. “In the rush to cut the current slaughter inspection program no appropriate assessment of the risk associated with their new program has not been conducted. “In the meantime, the Agency is allowing the current slaughter inspectorate to atrophy, refusing to fill vacant positions and turning a blind eye when meat slaughter establishments operate with short-handed inspection teams. “It’s a recipe for disaster. These are frighteningly similar to the circumstances that led to the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 unsuspecting people.” The answer, Kingston says, is for the Harper the government to increase food safety inspection resources and place them where they are needed on the frontline to allow the CFIA to meet its inspection requirements. The text of the Agriculture Union news release can be...

In-depth Global TV investigation supports our stance on food safety and security

An in-depth investigative report by Global TV has echoed the Agriculture Union’s concerns over cuts to both the quality and quantity of food inspection. The report, entitled Tainted lunch: Navigating gaps in Canada’s food safety system, was aired the first week in June. A lengthy article posted HERE on the Global TV Web site summarizes the results of the investigation. Seeking information through freedom-of-information laws, Global focused on last summer’s e-coli outbreak in Alberta. Contaminated pork sickened over 100 people, many of them children who were stricken with failing kidneys. The province’s food-safety inspectors never found the source of the tainted meat. Although federal inspection was not involved in this instance, the Alberta outbreak paralleled the infamous 2008 Maple Leaf listeria crisis and the XL Foods e-coli outbreak of 2012. In both cases, the food safety and security system failed to catch the problem at the source, endangering the public. Pointing to a recent Ipsos poll that revealed 78 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the safety of the food they eat, the Global report noted that “even as food supply chains become more complex, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has fewer resources to police it and less of an emphasis on preventing outbreaks rather than responding to them after the fact.” Agriculture Union National President Bob Kingston, in an extensive interview that formed part of the Global report, noted that Canadians are being misled when the Conservative government and CFIA management say that “everything is fine”. “Every program is being cut. In some way, shape or form there are corners being cut. There are processes being expedited...

CFIA Bargaining Team kicks off work in Ottawa

The Bargaining Team charged with negotiating a new collective agreement for Agriculture Union members employed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency kicked off its work in Ottawa on May 26 to 28. Team members came together for the first time since their election at the CFIA National Bargaining Conference. Assembling a package of bargaining demands to present to the employer was the first task at hand. The Team’s bargaining update, issued at the close of their inaugural three-day Ottawa meeting, can be read HERE. We urge our members to sign up for future Team updates to stay informed as a likely challenging round of negotiations proceeds.­ The above photo of the CFIA Bargaining Team was taken May 28. Jacques Rousseau was absent at the time. Other team members are: Eryn Butterfield; Rick Cormier; Richard Hilson; Bob Kingston; Terri Lee; Randy Olynyck; Marlene O’Neil and Karen Zoller. Supporting the team are Hassan Husseini (PSAC Negotiator) and Bonnie Bates (PSAC Research Officer)...

New Alberta Agriculture Minister traces his activist roots to involvement in our union

Once, he was ‘Brother Carlier’. Now, he’s ‘Mister Minister’! Oneil Carlier has just been appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development by Premier Rachel Notley as part of the ‘Orange Chinook’ that swept the NDP to an unexpected majority government in Alberta’s May 5 election. Carlier has a unique connection to both his farm constituents and the labour movement. While coming from a farming family who raised cattle and grew crops for several generations, he worked for 20 years as a geotechnical technician with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Throughout those two decades, Carlier honed his activist skills through his work for the Agriculture Union. In 2002, he was hired as a regional representative with our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, in Alberta. Carlier is one of only 12 Ministers in a perfectly gender-balanced Cabinet that is the smallest in Alberta history. We wish ‘Mr. Minister’ great success in his new portfolio. ‘Brother Carlier’ is a fine example of the labour movement’s credo: What we have for ourselves, we desire for all!...

Summerland members among those protesting Conservatives’ latest attack on free collective bargaining

Agriculture Union members are joining PSAC members across the country in protesting Bill C-59, the Budget Implementation Act. The proposed law, introduced in the House of Commons in mid-May, is the latest attack on free collective bargaining by a vindictive Harper government. It would permit the employer to unilaterally modify collective agreements to remove sick leave and impose a short- and long-term disability plan outside of collective agreements. The Conservatives’ legislative hammer would ignore both current collective bargaining and existing public service labour laws. Our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, had temporarily suspended contract talks while considering its options. The photo below shows our members at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, B.C. who answered the call by the PSAC to protest Bill C-59. During the May 19 event, the participants also signed a banner in support of their negotiating team members. Local 20043 president Darrell-Lee McKenzie and her members were joined by Bob Jackson, an Agriculture Union member and PSAC Regional Vice-President for British Columbia.  ...

Agriculture Union delegates to PSAC Convention strongly back political action campaign

The last week in April drew hundreds of delegates to the Triennial National Convention of our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Those attending the important event, held in Quebec City, were determined to forge a strategy to oppose ongoing Conservative government cuts to public service jobs and services. Next October’s federal election provided added focus for action. That action came in the shape of an emergency resolution adopted unanimously with great enthusiasm. Agriculture Union delegates were front-and-centre in voicing their strong support for the PSAC’s call to go on the offensive against escalating attacks on our membership by the Harper government. The resolution directs PSAC to spend up to $5-million from its surplus to conduct a strategic campaign to: oppose government actions that will compromise any of our members’ rights; continue organizing and mobilizing our members through concerted and strategic actions with other unions to defend our bargaining rights; take the necessary legal action to defend our constitutional right to free collective bargaining; and work to elect a federal government that respects worker and union rights and federal public services, and that governs for the benefit of all Canadian workers. The emergency resolution was one of a record number of resolutions dealt with by a hard-working Convention united in its determination to defend workers’ rights, public services and human rights. All this was managed in the context of a balanced budget that will see an increase in PSAC dues. Robyn Benson, who was elected to her second three-year term as PSAC National President, urged members to take the energy generated at the Convention and channel it...