Ottawa — Under threat of discipline, CFIA is instructing some of its non-meat inspection staff to train up as “instant” meat inspectors to be deployed to potentially COVID-19 infected meat slaughter plants, whether they want to work there or not.
According to CFIA notes from a meeting held on April 30, 2020, the CFIA would consider refusal to follow an order to train for slaughterhouse inspection duties an act of “insubordination”.
The Agency’s heavy-handed approach comes as COVID-19 infection rates are approximately 50% in several slaughter facilities. For example, 18 of 37 inspectors working at the Cargill plant in High River Alberta have tested positive for the virus as have three of six inspectors working at the Harmony plant in Balzac, Alberta.
“This approach is unacceptable. We need the Prime Minister or a senior elected person to intervene to ensure their own staff, federal inspectors are safe. We want a consistent national response to deal with the outbreak in food production facilities which have become one of the largest single sources of infection,” Murphy said.
To date, outreach to senior Ministers by the Agriculture Union has been all but ignored.
“CFIA is ordering its staff to work in facilities that obviously are not safe, and without the proper personal protective gear. The Agency seems to be unaware of assurances Deputy Prime Minister Freeland gave to the House of Commons just a few days ago,” says Fabian Murphy, President of the Agriculture Union. Last week Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told the House of Commons:
“The government, of course, should not penalize workers for doing the right thing and declining to go to work in unsafe conditions.”
The CFIA continues the practice of assigning inspectors to more than one processing facility, a practice that could encourage the spread of the new corona virus, especially since adequate personal protective gear is not available to people who work in these facilities, including inspectors.
“These are federal employees working in federally regulated workplaces. To suggest that these are matters for provincial governments to address, as the federal government maintains, is irresponsible and disrespectful of people who are putting their personal safety at risk to feed Canadians,” Murphy said.
For information: Jim Thompson • firstname.lastname@example.org • 613-447-9592