Alberta Federation of Labour calls on premier to improve farm worker safety

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says the provincial government is not fulfilling its promise of workplace rights for agricultural workers.

In a letter to Premier Alison Redford, the AFL reminded her of promises that she made during the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership race.

During the race, Redford told the Calgary Herald editorial board: “We have to have farm workers protected. Hired employees on farms are entitled to that protection.”

Alberta remains the only province 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.

Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations specifically omit agricultural work sites.

“It’s been two years and we’ve seen little movement to fulfill this commitment,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan wrote in the letter. “Of course, politicians are allowed to change their minds when new facts come to light or circumstances change. But citizens deserve an explanation.”

In 2008, a judicial inquiry into the death of farm worker Kevin Chandler found Alberta’s discriminatory practice against farm workers unjustifiable.

Judge Peter Barley, the provincial court judge assigned to the inquiry wrote in his report, “No logical explanation was given as to why paid employees on a farm are not covered by the same workplace legislation as non-farm employees.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour declared August 20 to be Farm Workers Day at the organization’s 2005 convention, and has been calling on the government to allow farm workers the same protections as most Alberta workers enjoy.

“The people who work in Alberta’s vibrant agricultural sector deserve the same protections as any other Albertans,” McGowan said.