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Cereal Research Centre at U of M to be mothballed

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/4/2012 (1808 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE federal government is closing the Cereal Research Centre at the University of Manitoba as part of a wide range of job cuts across the civil service.

The centre, one of a network of 19 national research centres of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, focuses on wheat and oats breeding, improving cereal quality and the resistance to diseases and insects.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS archives
Cereal Research Centre to close.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS archives Cereal Research Centre to close.

Its closure will occur in April 2014 after it finishes existing contracts, said Robyn Benson, vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada for the Prairie region.

It appears no scientists will be laid off and research programs will continue. Staff reached late Wednesday said they had received relocation notices, saying their posts would be moved to research stations in Morden or Brandon, but there was no indication of job cuts. Instead, the Cereal Research Centre's vintage brick building on the U of M campus will be mothballed.

About 30 scientists work at both the U of M site and an off-campus site at the Morden Research Station, which will remain open. There are 230 staff members in total at the two sites.

Benson said there are about 100 PSAC members employed at the Cereal Research Centre.

She said one of the biggest concerns is what will happen to the centre's seed-breeding program. Members have been told industry -- private companies and corporations -- will take over that function.

"That's a step in the direction of contracting out," said Benson.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney said news of the centre's closure isn't great but it could be worse.

He said the research centre's building has long needed to be modernized, but what matters most is the research continues in Manitoba.

He said KAP has pushed for the creation of a centre of excellence that would bring together all the agencies and agricultural scientists to build on Manitoba's legacy of research, one that includes the development of canola.

It makes sense for such an agency to be centrally located in Winnipeg. Closing the U of M research station appears to be a move away from that vision, he said.

More than 775 PSAC members in the three Prairie provinces were hit with workforce adjustment letters Wednesday.

Those letters are given to everyone who could be affected but not necessarily laid off. Some will find employment in other areas or in other departments.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, for example, issued 483 notices to employees Wednesday but expects about 300 actual layoffs.

Nationally, more than 5,500 PSAC members received workforce adjustment letters Wednesday. Another 1,500 letters went to members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents mostly white-collar government employees.

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Winnipeg will also be closed, likely throwing 17 people out of work, Benson said.

CIC is amalgamating its offices from Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and Lethbridge into one site in Calgary.

Also affected are 100 food inspectors with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Most of those jobs, as with all the layoffs, will affect the national capital region in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., where about 40 per cent of federal civil servants work.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the changes will not downgrade Canada's food-safety system.

In a statement released Wednesday, Ritz said an additional $51 million was set aside in 2012 to enhance food safety.

But the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada says it has crunched the numbers and estimates the food-safety inspection force will shrink by as many as 100 inspectors, out of 308 jobs eliminated.

This will reverse increases to the inspection force that were put in place in response to the deadly listeriosis outbreak in 2008, and will have an impact on the safety of food purchased by Canadians, union president Bob Kingston said Wednesday.

The cuts are part of the government's latest austerity measures to slice $5.2 billion from operating costs, including eliminating 19,200 civil service positions.

About 12,000 of the jobs will be in the form of layoffs, while the rest will be through attrition.

Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, said there will be five job losses at the drug analysis service lab in Winnipeg. The lab is one of several Health Canada runs to help law-enforcement agencies identify substances found at crime scenes.

The Winnipeg lab, said Outhouse, was the least used and is being shuttered.

The work Winnipeg's lab did will be done at labs in other cities.

Outhouse said Winnipeg will gain 29 scientist jobs from the movement of a lab from Ottawa to the Canadian Centre for Human and Animal Health on Arlington Street.

 

-- with files from Mary Agnes Welch, Postmedia News

 

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

National job cuts

19,200 jobs will be eliminated within the next three years as Ottawa cuts $5.2 billion in spending.

At least 7,700 federal employees received notices their jobs will be affected. Not everyone who received notices Wednesday will be laid off; they could be shuffled to different jobs within their unit, be retrained or transferred to another department.

715 people at Health Canada, 689 at Agriculture, 483 at the Public Health Agency of Canada, 339 at Citizenship and Immigration and 1,137 at the Canada Border Services Agency were notified their jobs could be affected.

"I have no idea why there's so many notices at CBSA, in particular, when they're still needing to hire them," said John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "If they were to let all those jobs, these people go, certainly it's going to slow down services."

Separately, more than 1,500 scientists, veterinarians, engineers, medical doctors and other professional staff at 10 departments or agencies represented by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada also received notices Wednesday, including 344 at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 156 at Natural Resources Canada and 137 at Environment Canada.

Nearly 700 economists and social-science policy experts represented by the Canadian Association of Professional Employees also received notices.

Total number of notices by region:

Atlantic: 236

British Columbia: 222

Prairies: 775

North: 11

Ontario: 432

National Capital Region: 2,224

Quebec: 236

The Canadian Forces will shut down military housing in Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver as part of that department's wide-ranging cuts, according to documents leaked to the Ottawa Citizen.

17 Wing Winnipeg operates two housing areas -- one adjacent to Kapyong Barracks in south Winnipeg and near 17 Wing in northwest Winnipeg.

The Housing Services Centre manages 558 homes in Winnipeg, according to the Department of National Defence website.

The military will also get rid of air defence equipment, cut army training, reduce pilots' flying time and disband reserve units who guard ports, the documents reveal.

 

-- Postmedia News

Read more by Mia Rabson.

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