WINNIPEG — The strike by Canada's largest public-sector union could harm farmers both in terms of money coming in and crops going out, agricultural organizations said Thursday.
Among the striking members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada were more than 140 grain inspectors who certify exports.
"Provision of official inspection and certification of grain exports is significantly impacted," Rémi Gosselin, manager of corporate information services for the Canadian Grain Commission, wrote in an email.
"While we respect our employees' right to take legal job action, we are also focused on minimizing the impact on our stakeholders, grain companies and producers."
Contingency plans were being put in place to ensure that managers and others not on strike can maintain inspections essential to keep market access, he added.
Chuck Fossay, who operates a grain and oilseeds farm west of Winnipeg, said if delays in inspections are ongoing, they could cause a backlog throughout the system.
"There are ships waiting in Vancouver to be loaded, and for every day that they wait there are demurrage charges that the grain companies have to pay to the shippers, and those demurrage charges eventually work their way through the system, costing farmers money," Fossay said.
Fossay, who is also a board member of Keystone Agricultural Producers, which represents farmers across Manitoba, said Canada could lose customers for the long term if the strike continues and causes shipments to be delayed repeatedly.
The Calgary-based Wheat Growers Association said farmers are counting on shipping out the last of their 2022 crops to pay for inputs for this year's crops.
"A strike causing a slowing or stoppage of grain movement from Canadian ports will have a massive impact on the entire grain industry, especially farmers," the group said in a press release.
The work of other federal workers who have walked off the job includes processing income tax returns and running federal business risk-management programs such as AgriStability.
"You gotta file your income tax … and then the government has to process it and then they determine whether or not you're eligible for a payment," Fossay said.
"Getting our income tax papers processed, and then looking to see whether or not we qualify for a payment, and then getting that payment issued could certainly all be impacted if this strike continues on for any lengthy time."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2023
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press