In the respective roles of employer and union, both parties have a vested interest in maintaining a cordial, businesslike and mutually-beneficial relationship. The Agriculture Union is always prepared to work constructively with management when the resulting outcome will be of advantage to our members.

So, it’s welcome news when evidence emerges that the employer recognizes and respects the constructive role the union plays in the workplace. Such a clear message has been sent to all CFIA managers by Colleen Barnes, the Agency’s recently-appointed Vice-President of Human Resources.

Her memorandum, entitled Message to Managers from the Vice-President of Human Resources, regarding recognition of participation in union activities at the CFIA, is worth reproducing in its entirety, as follows:

Both management and unions have a common interest and responsibility in ensuring a healthy and respectful workplace and in fostering a productive and positive working relationship within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Union-management consultation committee meetings (UMCC) provide an ideal venue for union representatives and management to collaboratively resolve workplace issues and for union representatives to provide feedback to management on employee concerns. In turn, through these meetings, the employer and employee representatives can discuss any foreseeable changes within the Agency. Informal consultations through conversations at the local level are also vital and should be encouraged to help address issues before they become problematic.

There are many benefits for those who become union representatives. These include learning more about the agency, representing fellow employees in the same bargaining unit, improving leadership and communication skills and bringing forth valuable improvements for the agency while understanding challenges faced by management.

The managers of CFIA involved in consultations with the unions, and through labour relations training, gain an appreciation for the role of stewards in workplace.

Designated union representatives who attend and participate in activities arising out of the UMCC meetings may require reasonable time for preparation and for taking appropriate follow-up action. Managers should give due consideration to this.

Among these many positive statements, Barnes’ recognition and promotion of the role of workplace union representatives is particularly noteworthy and welcome.

Based on her stated commitment to improved labour relations, the Agriculture Union looks forward to a new era of mutual respect and productive union-management consultation at all levels of the CFIA!