Alberta continues to stall on farm safety recommendations

Stelmach government resists acting on judge’s recommendations as “the deadly discrimination against Alberta farm workers continues,” says national leader of UFCW Canada

While deaths and injuries continue on Alberta farms, the Stelmach government continues to resist adopting the inquiry recommendations of Alberta Justice Peter Barley. More than a year ago, Justice Barley called for Alberta farm workers to be included under provincial workplace health and safety legislation.

“Maybe it’s time Premier Stelmach paid a visit to some of the families who lost a loved one last year in a farm accident, to explain to them what the stalling is all about,” says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. “Explain to them why the deadly discrimination against Alberta farm workers continues.”

Fourteen months ago, Justice Barley delivered his recommendation following his inquiry into the workplace fatality of a High River agriculture worker. Barley recommended that the province's farm workers should be brought under the protection of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act. He also called for the implementation of a farm place safety training and inspection system. Barley also called to extend the Workers Compensation system to cover agriculture workers.

“Last week we had the Alberta Employment Minister say workers will have to ‘wait and see’ whether his government will follow the Barley recommendations,” says Hanley. “Wait and see for what?  How many more agriculture workers are killed and injured in farm accidents?”

“This stalling on safety has to stop. It is blatant discrimination. A farm worker has just as much right to health and safety protection as any other worker in the province,” says Hanley, the national leader of the union that in 2003 launched a Charter challenge against Ontario's exclusion of agricultural workers from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). That led to OHSA coverage for Ontario agriculture workers in 2006.

UFCW Canada is Canada's largest private-sector union and, in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance, operates ten agriculture worker support centres across Canada.