The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says the government's decision to withhold information on farm fatalities is an attempt to move the issue to the back burner and off the public radar. The AFL represents over 150,000 Alberta workers.
"Farm workers are already left unprotected under health and safety regulations," says AFL Secretary Treasurer Nancy Furlong. "The decision to cease reporting fatalities is a painful example of how agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta."
The news that the province would stop reporting information on farm worker deaths and injuries was delivered through a government website; the province offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
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.
"It is the government's duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries. Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents," says Furlong, noting that the latest data available on the agency now reporting these statistics, the Canadian Agriculture Injury Reporting, is from 2005.
"The Alberta Federation of Labour declared August 20 as Farm Workers Day at our 2005 Convention, and has been calling on the government to allow farm workers the same protections as most Alberta workers enjoy," says Furlong. "It's particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents.
"This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem—Alberta's deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province," concludes Furlong.
Workers' Compensation Institute, Tuesday August 28 2012