The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) has modified some of its procedures for inspecting grain as it’s loaded onto ships on the West Coast, as 65 per cent of the CGC’s employees, including grain inspectors, are participating in the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike.
“Inspection staff that are not in a strike position are limited to some managers and specialists across the country,” explains CGC spokesperson Remi Gosselin, joining RealAg Radio on Tuesday. “So obviously, the CGC’s provision of official inspection and certification of grain exports is significantly impacted. And while we respect our employees’ right to take legal job action, we have been focused on minimizing the impact on grain producers, on grain companies, and more particularly on grain exports.”
As of Tuesday, grain shipments “continue unfettered,” he says, as the CGC has implemented its contingency plan for outward grain inspection.
The Commission is temporarily allowing grain companies or third-party inspection firms to collect composite samples for the CGC while a ship is loaded. These samples, which are normally collected by the grain inspection staff that are on strike, are then submitted to the limited number of managers and specialists who provide final inspection and certification, explains Gosselin.
While the CGC is allowing others to collect samples, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has reiterated its call for the federal government to allow third parties to provide the entire outward inspection that the CGC is required to perform under the Canada Grain Act.
“[Third parties] are there already because many overseas customers demand inspection by an independent third party. These third parties could easily be accredited to perform those services and simply audited by a government agency on a regular basis,” the Wheat Growers say in the organization’s latest statement, issued Tuesday.
Other Grain Commission services, such as ensuring producer payment protection, are also affected by the strike. Response times might be slower than usual, but these services are still active, says Gosselin, who is also the only member of the CGC’s communications team that is not on strike.
PSAC members set up a picket line at Viterra’s Cascadia port terminal in Vancouver, as of Monday. The company has not replied to an inquiry about whether the striking federal workers have affected any operations at the terminal.