EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - March 12, 2013) - After sitting on it for more than a year, the Alberta government has finally made public the report from the Alberta Farm Safety Advisory Council. The Council was formed in 2011, to provide recommendations to address the hundreds of workplace deaths and thousands of injuries on Alberta farms over the past two decades.
Yet, while there about 17 fatalities and 300 serious injuries at Alberta agriculture operations every year, a majority of the Farm Safety Advisory Council members decided not to recommend that farm workers be included under Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
"It is a shameful decision," says UFCW Canada national representative Devin Yeager. Yeager was the only labour-representative member of the Council, which was primarily made up of industry representatives and government bureaucrats. "The recommendations regarding increased coordination, awareness, and education and training aren't enough in themselves, because without regulatory enforcement under OHSA, too many Alberta farm workers will continue to be victims of workplace accidents and fatalities."
"There are a lot of farmers out there that are being proactive in their approach to safety and feel that their employees are a vital part of the farming process. These employers should be recognized for doing the right thing," says Yeager, "but there are also agriculture operators who show no regard for safety when it comes to their employees. There needs to be OHSA protection for workers on all farms - not just a voluntary safety program for those employers who choose to participate."
During the lead up to her election, Alberta Premier Redford promised to provide OHSA protection for hired farm workers (see www.ufcw.ca/safetynow), but to date has done nothing to deliver on her pledge. So for now, Alberta farm workers will continue to be excluded from the protections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, from the right to refuse unsafe work, and from coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act if they are injured or killed.
"It is absolutely unjust and harmful to exclude Alberta agriculture workers from the same health and safety regulations that protect other workers," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. For more than two decades, UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers) has led a campaign for improved labour and safety rights for agriculture workers in Canada. "The premier should act on her OHSA promise to bring safety now to Alberta farm workers."