Picket lines are up across the country as more than 155 thousand Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) members began strike action at 12:01am ET on April 19.
The union members on strike make up approximately a third of the federal public service, and includes employees of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Grain Commission. AAFC research centres and the CGC head office in Winnipeg, Man. are among the more than 250 sites where the union says it is picketing.
“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract for Canada’s Federal Public Service workers,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “Now more than ever, workers need fair wages, good working conditions and inclusive workplaces. And it’s clear the only way we’ll achieve that is by taking strike action to show the government that workers can’t wait.”
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the strike will disrupt delivery of federal programs and services, including AgriInvest, AgriStability, the Poultry and Egg On-Farm Investment Program, Youth Employment and Skills Program, and programs under the new Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
65 per cent of Canadian Grain Commission employees, including staff who look after outward inspection on grain shipments, are on strike.
The CGC says it has limited inspection staff — some managers and specialists — who are not on strike, and that official inspection and certification of grain exports will be “significantly impacted.”
“While we respect our employees’ right to take legal job action, we are also focused on minimizing the impact on our stakeholders, grain companies and producers. With this in mind, we have developed contingency plans to provide official certification through modified procedures where certification and inspection are essential to keep market access,” says a spokesperson for the Grain Commission.
The strike will also affect processing of tax returns, employment insurance, immigration, and passport applications. The union says Canadians should expect interruptions to supply chains and trade at ports, and slowdowns at the border with administrative staff on strike.
Farms that employ foreign workers are also concerned work permits may be delayed.
PSAC says its bargaining teams remain ready to meet with the government. The union is reportedly seeking a 13.5 per cent raise over three years, as well as other demands, including making some of work-from-home measures permanent.