UFCW Canada gains health and safety coverage for Ontario farm workers
Occupational health and safety extended to cover agricultural workers as of June 2006
TORONTO, June 29, 2006 – As of June 30th, Ontario farm workers will be covered under the Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The new health and safety coverage for farm workers comes in the wake of a 3-year public awareness campaign and legal battle led by UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada).
According to UFCW Canada national director Wayne Hanley, “we’re glad the government finally acted to end its discrimination against workers who perform some of the most dangerous work there is. As we said in our legal challenge, the exclusion of these workers from OHSA protection was unfair, unjust and a violation of their Charter rights.”
For a decade UFCW Canada has led the campaign for safer, more just working conditions for farm workers, including the right to form unions for collective bargaining. Last year, in the wake of an ongoing UFCW Canada legal challenge on behalf of these workers, the McGuinty government finally relented and announced it would extend OHSA coverage to agricultural workers commencing June 30th.
For the first time in the Act’s 26-year-history, farm workers in Ontario will have the right and obligation to form workplace health and safety committees; the right to be informed about specific workplace dangers and hazards (including toxic chemicals); the right and obligation to participate with the employer to develop a farm safety plan and policy; the right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work without reprisal from the employer. Ministry of Labour inspectors will also for the first time be obliged to investigate all critical injuries and fatalities on the farm.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction and should improve farm safety,” says Hanley, “but there are more steps to go, like the development of regulations under OHSA specific to farming. Right now government says general safety guidelines are good enough but every other industry under OHSA has specific regulations. Farm workers need that added protection too, so we’re going to keep the pressure on.”
For the past six years UFCW Canada has also acted as a counselling and training resource for farm workers. A workers’ handbook explaining OHSA and specific farm place hazards has been published in both English and Spanish and is being distributed at migrant farm workers’ resource centres that UFCW Canada operates in Leamington, Virgil, Simcoe and Bradford, Ontario, and in St-Rémi, Québec.
UFCW Canada represents more than 240,000 Canadian workers in every aspect of the food industry, as well as other service, commercial, processing, manufacturing, technical and professional occupations.
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For more information:
Michael Forman, UFCW Canada Communications
(416) 675-1104, firstname.lastname@example.org
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