Pink slips issued as Canadian Grain Commission prepares for end of subsidies

Cutbacks The commission is cutting
its budget by $30 million and that will
affect about 300 positions

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The Canadian Grain Commission is cutting jobs — although the exact number has yet to be determined.

About 300 of the agency’s 700 workers are in “impacted positions” and some have already received letters declaring their positions “surplus,” said spokesman Remi Gosselin.

“Of the 300 impacted positions, I would say about 230 perform inspection and weighing functions, which you find (mainly) in port locations,” he said. “The remainder of the positions that are impacted are in Winnipeg — around 70 positions — but it doesn’t necessarily mean those 70 positions will (all) be eliminated. We’re not really sure how many positions will be eliminated outright and how many employees will be declared surplus.”

Retirements are expected to lower the layoff numbers. Those who lose their jobs have three options — remain employed with the federal government for one year and then be placed on a priority list to fill vacant government jobs, take a severance package, or a combination of severance and funds for up to two years of education.

Ottawa, which currently covers half of the grain commission’s costs, will no longer subsidize the agency. That sparked fears its fees would triple, but commissioner Murdoch MacKay says the average fee to farmers will be $1.82 per tonne — a 47 per cent increase.

Eliminating mandatory inward weighing and inspection of grain at port elevators will save the commission $20 million, with other changes bringing in $10 million in savings.

What the grain industry gets for its $1.82 a tonne are grain quality experts who work with customers around the world promoting and standing behind Canadian grain, MacKay said.

The commission also arbitrates grade disputes between farmers and grain buyers, administers producer cars, establishes grades, and conducts research on milling and baking quality.

The federal government wants to make more changes, including establishing a voluntary, non-binding dispute settlement process. Now if a grain company disagrees with a grain commission ruling its only option is to fight it in court, which MacKay said is expensive for both sides.

The agency also wants to clarify the role of its grain research laboratory regarding monitoring grain safety, extend “subject to inspectors’ grade and dockage” provisions to process elevators, license companies that load containers with grain for export, and bring in penalties for those who misrepresent the class of grain they are delivering.

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