Seed World

With 155,000 Canadian Workers on Strike, Here’s How It’ll Affect U.S. Ag

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated with new information.

More than 155,000 Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) members are on strike as of April 19, 2023, a news release from PSAC said. The release noted this is one of the largest strikes in Canadian history.

“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract for Canada’s Federal Public Service workers,” Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, said in the release. “Now more than ever, workers need fair wages, good working conditions and inclusive workplaces. And it’s clear the only way we’ll achieve that is by taking strike action to show the government that workers can’t wait.”

For the U.S. and global seed sectors, nearly a third of the entire Canadian federal public service workers are on strike, causing interruptions to supply chains and international trade at ports and slowdowns at the border with administrative staff on strike, amongst other interruptions, the release said.

Negotiations between PSAC and the Treasury Board of Canada began in June 2021, but reached impasse in May 2022. In a previous news release PSAC said it was asking for more options for remote work and better work-life balance as workers recover from the pandemic, inclusive workplaces, better job security and fair wages that keep up with rising inflation.

In a backgrounder document on the Canadian government website, it said following PSAC declaring the impasse for the four bargaining units, a Public Interest Commission (PIC) was established. A PIC is mandated by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board to assist the parties in coming to an agreement.

As part of the PIC process, the parties attended hearings where they provided information and arguments about the matters in dispute, the document said. Following these hearings, the PIC made recommendations intended to help the parties reach a settlement. In its PA report on issues common to all four bargaining units, the PIC recommended a three-year collective agreement with specific economic increases in each of the three years.

According to a listing from the federal government approximately 159,000 employees that provide a range of services for the public are on strike. In the agriculture realm, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) departments impacted include AgriInvest, AgriStability, Poultry and Egg On-Farm Investment Program, Wine Sector Support Program, Youth Employment and Skills Program, and federal programs under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

In addition, the Canadian Grain Commission’s website noted that due to strikes, they’ll be experiencing a disruption of services — including services such as official grain inspection, analytic testing services and export certification among others.

The Wheat Growers shared in a news release that a strike causing a slowing or stoppage of grain movement from Canadian ports will have a massive impact on the entire grain industry and cause vessel backlogs at ports.

“Farmers need to continue to deliver last years’ crop before spring seeding to run their businesses and purchase inputs for the 2023 crop. A stoppage would be devastating to the industry, and ultimately to consumers,” Gunter Jochum, president of the Wheat Growers, said in the release.

In a tweet, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency shared that its employees aren’t part of the strike and therefore services from its department aren’t impacted.