The Agriculture Union and our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, are gearing up for a fresh round of negotiations for our members employed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

This comes barely three months after a new collective agreement was signed last October following lengthy and difficult negotiations.

Mind you, none of our CFIA members could be blamed if they hadn’t realized they in fact had a new contract. The employer has refused to live up to a number of undertakings from the recently-signed deal. In fact, the CFIA has yet to provide our members with hard copies of the new collective agreement and continues to stall doing so!

Even more worrisome is the slow and often inaccurate trickle of information from CFIA management regarding the issue of severance cash-out. This halting process is of major concern as employees have only a six-month time frame during which to choose one of three applicable options.

Nonetheless, the PSAC and the Agriculture Union refuse to let the grass grow under the bargaining process. Next week, the PSAC is holding a CFIA Bargaining Conference in Ottawa.

Delegates to the Conference will select a bargaining team and prepare a list of demands to be presented to employer negotiators when face-to-face talks officially get under way.

Contract talks with the current government are never easy, and the upcoming CFIA negotiations will likely prove no exception. Economists are predicting the fallout from tumbling oil prices will result in $4.3-billion hit to federal revenues in 2015, calling into question the Harper government’s politically-motivated commitment to balance the budget during this election year.

As the Conservatives have already signaled that they are prepared to make a new round of cuts to public services in order to meet their political ends, we can expect CFIA negotiators to take a hardline at the bargaining table.

As always, we will keep our CFIA members up-to-date as the negotiations process unfolds.