Following a workplace accident that killed two farm workers on December 4, UFCW Canada is once again calling on Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach to End the Harvest of Death by immediately legislating health and safety protections for the province’s agriculture workforce. The two men killed on the farm near Edmonton were electrocuted after a portable auger touched an overhead power line.
“How many more people have to be killed on Alberta farms before the Stelmach Government listens to reason and the Barley recommendations,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley, making reference to the recommendations made by Justice Peter Barley in 2008, while investigating the death of farm worker Kevan Chandler, that the agriculture sector be included in the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“The Alberta Conservative government’s refusal to legislate health and safety protections for agriculture industry workers is another clear example of why the International Labour Organization recently found Canada in violation of basic human rights,” adds Brother Hanley. “Alberta’s treatment of farm workers is a national issue, concern and shame that requires all of us to call on the Alberta Premier to immediately end the Harvest of Death.”
Alberta remains the only province that maintains 19th century rules where farm workers are excluded from occupational health and safety laws, as well as legislation governing hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, vacation pay, the right to refuse unsafe work, being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job. In the nine years the Alberta government has said it is consulting on how to improve safety for agricultural workers, 160 people have died on farm worksites.
"It is simply absurd that investigators from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety were dispatched to investigate the death of these two workers, but had to abandon the investigation and leave the site when they discovered this happened on a farm," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
"Today's farms are industrial workplaces just like any other - as this accident involving large equipment and power lines shows," adds Brother McGowan. "This is clear evidence, if any more were needed, that the government's decision last week to focus on education and training to improve farm and ranch safety is completely inadequate.”
To stand up for farm workers and health and safety rights, send a message to Premier Stelmach and help spread the word about the End the Harvest of Death campaign with friends, coworkers and social networks.