Three years have passed, but Tories fail to act on judge's recommendation in farm-death inquiry
Today marks an unhappy anniversary for an important group of Alberta workers whose safety has been neglected by the Alberta government.
"Three years ago, after investigating the death of farm worker Kevan Chandler, Justice Peter Barley recommended that farm and ranch workers be included in Alberta legislation governing workplace health and safety," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"Sadly, the government has chosen to ignore this recommendation, leaving agricultural workers to face the kinds of risks at work that no other Albertans are asked to face."
About 160 farm workers have died in Alberta in the last decade, but this remains the only province in Canada that maintains 19th century rules where these 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.
"There is no credible reason to continue to exclude these workers. Today's farms are industrial worksites like any found in urban areas, involving heavy equipment and overhead power lines. The simple fact is that the rights of paid farm workers continue to be ignored because the government has chosen to bow to pressure from the industrial agribusiness lobby, rather than listen to an unbiased judge or the many voices of Albertans calling for change," says McGowan.
"The government's proposal for a farm-safety education campaign run by the industry instead of real action was a joke – and one in very poor taste," he says.
"During her campaign to become Premier, Alison Redford promised to extend rights to farm workers. With a new session of the Legislature set to begin soon, Albertans are waiting to see if this important change is made, or if are we on the cusp of another broken promise."
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For more information:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour (780) 218-9888