The Wheat Growers Association (WGA) says a strike causing grain transportation to slow down or stop would be devastating for farmers, and has called on the federal government to make sure it doesn’t happen.
The WGA worries grain shipments will be affected by the recent Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike, which began on April 19, since the union represents employees at the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC).
“Farmers need to continue to deliver last years’ crop before spring seeding to run their businesses and purchase inputs for the 2023 crop,” WGA president Gunter Jochum said in a press release. “A stoppage would be devastating to the industry, and ultimately to consumers.”
Jochum worries the strike will cause a backlog of vessels that are currently traveling to Canadian ports, creating additional barriers that will last long after the strike is over.
The Wheat Growers are calling on the federal government to grant immediate exemptions for third-party service providers to ensure inspections continue and vessels are loaded and unloaded.
Roughly 70 per cent of Canadian grain is inspected by both the CGC and a third party. The double inspections cost farmers more than $60 million annually.
Treasury Board president Mona Fortier wrote an open letter to PSAC leadership on Monday defending their wage increase offer of nine per cent over three years. Fortier wrote that the offer was higher than their first offer, and argued it compare well with similar agreements across Canada.
Fortier wrote that they’ve also offered PSAC members a signing bonus, and proposed a joint review of union demands for more flexibility in working from home.
“Just as we have done with other bargaining agents, the Government wants to reach deals with the PSAC that are fair to employees and reflect the important work they perform,” Fortier wrote. “However, any settlement must be reasonable for all Canadians, whether we are talking about this or future rounds of collective bargaining.”
The PSAC responded with a statement accusing the government of trying to drag out negotiations in an attempt to “nickel and dime” union members.
“Without a wage increase since the beginning of the pandemic, our members have fallen behind inflation to the tune of nearly 11 per cent of their earnings,” reads the statement. “After losing more ground to runaway prices than workers in any other sector for years, the government is now saying Canada’s public service workers should be happy with an offer that leaves them even further behind.”
On Monday, the PSAC escalated strike actions across the country. Union members shut down the Port of Montreal, the Port of Vancouver, and Port of Saint John’s. They also blockaded the Treasury Board office in Ottawa.
“It’s clear the Liberal government is feeling the pressure as we escalate our strike actions across the country,” reads a PSAC statement. “But we’ve been clear – the offer the government has on the table simply doesn’t cut it.