Members at CFIA set priorities and elect bargaining team

PSAC members at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) participated in a virtual national bargaining conference June 8–10 to prioritize bargaining issues and elect their bargaining team. The current collective agreement expires in December, and a new round of talks kicks off later this year. 

We know the pandemic has had a profound impact on the way we live and work, exposed glaring inequalities for marginalized workers and raised other major issues that we need to address through collective bargaining with CFIA.  

Over the last few months, we’ve asked members at CFIA to tell us how the pandemic has impacted them and to put forward proposals to help reshape work at the agency in the wake of COVID-19. This input was discussed and prioritized at the bargaining conference.

Meet the 2021 CFIA Bargaining Team 

British Columbia: Terri D’Souza 
British Columbia: Todd Smith 
Alberta: Randy Olnyk 
Saskatchewan: Michelle Schultz 
Manitoba: Andrew Neufeld 
Ontario: Sandra Sheppard 
NCR: Sylvie Jubinville 
Quebec: Sylvia Venne 
Atlantic: Jan Pennington 
Negotiator: Hassan Husseini 
Researcher: Silja Freitag 

Key bargaining issues 

Work-life balance 

With the shift to remote work, we have to secure the right for members to disconnect from electronic work devices outside of working hours and expand leave provisions (e.g. 699 leave, leave for family-related responsibilities, sick leave) to improve work-life balance, which is especially critical for women, caregivers and those with disabilities. We also need to negotiate flexible work options that allow members to shape their workdays to match their personal and family responsibilities. 

Fair wages and allowances 

To continue attracting strong candidates to public service jobs, we have to negotiate compensation in line with that of workers in similar occupations in the industry. We also must secure wage increases that reflect the rising cost of living, and our members’ hard work and dedication. 

Job security 

The current period of economic uncertainty emphasizes the need for a fairer Employment Transition Policy (ETP) in case of layoffs. The current employment transition policy process unnecessarily threatens employees with potential displacement and forces workers to re-interview for their own jobs, causing stress and other adverse mental health impacts. We must oppose all forms of precarious employment and ensure that all members have timely access to indeterminate employment.

Mental health support 

The pandemic has reaffirmed the need for robust mental health supports as members have struggled to balance work and family care, while dealing with ongoing anxiety about COVID-19 exposure. Moreover, many CFIA employees did not have the option of working from home — instead continuing to work in labs, processing plants and slaughterhouses to ensure food for Canadians remained safe, which further impacted members’ mental health. 

We must build on the memorandum of understanding with respect to workplace mental health negotiated in the last round of talks and ensure a strong mental health strategy at CFIA. 

Systemic racism 

Systemic racism continues to prevent the public service from reaching its full potential. We must actively address the barriers and discrimination faced by Black, racialized and Indigenous workers, and ensure that employers reject systemic racism and actively work to dismantle the structures that sustain it.  

We also plan to call on the federal government to provide education to all public service workers on the history of Indigenous peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, treaties and Indigenous rights, Indigenous law, and Indigenous–Crown relations. 

Remote work 

Provisions governing remote work will be most effective when they are negotiated into collective agreements. We must also ensure that remote work is free from remote surveillance and unreasonable performance expectations, that employers cover associated expenses, and that concerns relating to accommodations, ergonomics, and health and safety are addressed.  

Safe workplaces 

PSAC members at CFIA risked exposure as they continued showing up to work in food processing facilities across the country during the pandemic. Some of these became sites of major COVID-19 outbreaks. Health and safety practices learned from this experience must be formalized in the collective agreement.  

Moreover, we must ensure that CFIA workplaces remain free of harassment. 

Next steps 

The bargaining team will meet to further review and prioritize issues for talks with the employer, and a final package of bargaining demands will be exchanged with CFIA at the first bargaining session, which hasn't been determined yet. Members will be able to access both the union’s and employer’s proposal packages on PSAC’s website.  

Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date via the member portal to receive all the latest CFIA bargaining updates. 

June 17, 2021