The Public Interest Commission (PIC) conciliation hearing for bargaining with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was held via video conference on May 7-8 after being delayed due to the pandemic. The parties made presentations on a set of outstanding CFIA-specific issues that had been agreed to with the Commission prior to the hearing.
The hearing took place as PSAC members at CFIA continue working in the dangerous conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic—including outbreaks at several meat plants—to ensure Canada’s food supply remains safe.
PSAC presses for improvements
PSAC’s bargaining team focused its presentation on addressing key workplace concerns identified by members during the current round of negotiations, including:
fair annual economic increases
market adjustments to wages for positions paid less than their counterparts in the core public administration and agencies
compensation for all work performed by inspectors, such as those working in abattoirs currently not paid for prep and clean-up time
improved work life-balance, such as more leave for family-related responsibilities
strengthened job security
fair compensation for the failed Phoenix pay system
Moreover, the union rejected all concessions the agency is pushing.
Drastic changes to scheduling
The agency continues to insist on a range of unacceptable changes to scheduling, such as:
Changing hours of work to 6 AM-10 PM so that management can schedule shifts into the evening without additional compensation (i.e., shift premium). Currently, hours of work are 6 AM-6 PM.
Redefining the work week to include the weekend, allowing management to schedule shifts on Saturdays and Sundays without additional compensation.
Drastically reducing the required notice for shift changes from seven days to just 48 hours.
Creating a new staffing definition called the ‘inspectorate’ and giving management the right to schedule these workers at any time without additional compensation, such as overtime pay or premiums.
Management is pushing for these changes under the guise of creating an agile, mobile and flexible organization and workforce. While PSAC fully supports fulfilling CFIA’s mandate to safeguard Canada’s food supply, this cannot be achieved by introducing regressive changes to the collective agreement. In fact, proactively ensuring the safety of Canada’s food supply demands adequate investments in staffing rather than short-sighted attempts to squeeze more out of current employees.
Moreover, these proposals, which will make it harder for CFIA workers to plan their personal lives, run directly against the Trudeau government’s stated support for better work-life balance.
Phasing out of Employment Transition Policy
The Agency wants to make regressive changes to the Employment Transition Policy (ETP). The ETP is a negotiated appendix within the collective agreement intended to maximize employment opportunities for indeterminate employees facing employment transition situations. CFIA management’s new proposal would create a two-tier approach that would exclude future employees from the ETP protections available to current CFIA workers. The union is firmly committed to strengthening the collective agreement for current and future employees and presented its own proposal to improve the ETP. This proposal is based on members’ experience with the policy over the years it has existed.
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What is a Public Interest Commission?
By law, once impasse is reached, a PIC is established to help the parties reach an agreement. The PIC is a panel of three people – a chairperson appointed by the Labour Board and nominees appointed by the union and management. The union and the employer submit briefs and explain their positions on the outstanding issues at a hearing with the PIC. The PIC then issues a report with recommendations for settlement.
The recommendations are not binding. Once the PIC releases its report, PSAC bargaining teams will reconvene to discuss the recommendations. Typically, PSAC’s teams and government representatives then return to the table to resume negotiations.
PSAC at CFIA : Bargaining for our future!
Atlantic: Jan Pennington
Québec: Audrey St-Germain
National Capital Region: Marlene O’Neil
Ontario: Robert MacDonald
Manitoba: Andrew Neufeld
Saskatchewan: Karen Zoller
Alberta: Dorothy McRae
British Columbia: Terri Lee
Negotiator: Hassan Husseini
Research Officer: Silja Freitag