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Canadian ag watching labour situations across the country

Canadian ag watching labour situations across the country

Food transport should be deemed essential, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The Canadian ag industry has a close eye on multiple labour situations occurring across the country.

“We definitely respect the collective bargaining process to protect workers’ rights and make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), told Farms.com. “If these strikes happen, lots of food movement comes to a screeching halt.”

Employees in multiple sectors affecting ag are either on strike or moving in that direction.

On the train tracks, for example, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) rejected the latest offer from CN, the rail company announced.

Employees from CPKC represented by the TCRC are also involved in these negotiations.

A work stoppage between the two sides cannot occur until the Canada Industrial Relations Board issues a decision about which activities must continue if a stoppage takes place.

CBSA employees could strike as early as this Friday if no deal with the federal government is reached.

While frontline border guards are essential and must work, they could implement work-to-rule, which means following official working rules and hours exactly in order to slow down trucks or vessels.

These stoppages can result in food loss, food security issues and increased costs, Currie said.

“There’s refrigerated train cars that can only stay there for so long until the food is lost,” he said. “There are demurrage costs that can total into the millions. It’s really important to keep valuable products like food moving. And that’s even before you talk about propane and liquid natural gas that’s moved in Eastern Canada.”

Other labour issues can affect animal husbandry.

In Guelph, for example, employees at the Cargill plant are on strike, causing backlogs in the supply chain.

And workers at Calgary’s Case Ready location have voted in favour of a strike.

“If you’re a livestock producer maybe you can keep your cattle a little bit longer,” Currie said. “The problem is you’re going to lose price because the beef could be overweight, and then the processors have to slow production because they’re limited on freezer space. If you’re a poultry or pork producer, your time is limited on how long you can keep those animals.”

To help mitigate these challenges, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has lobbied the federal government multiple times to designate ag goods transportation as essential to keep food moving.

There’s no indication that’s going to happen, Currie said.

Farms.com has contacted Transport Canada for comment on the potential of designating food transportation as essential.


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