Workers on farms and ranches will mark the seventh annual Alberta Farm Worker Day tomorrow still waiting for the Alberta government to end its silence on a call to make their workplaces safer.
“Eight months ago, following the deaths of three farm workers, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) was among those who wrote to Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk with a simple request – to allow investigations into all farm-related deaths, serious injuries, or injuries involving a child. That request has been met by silence,” says AFL secretary treasurer Nancy Furlong.
“Farm workers put the food on our tables and fuel our economy. They deserve the respect of a response on this important issue. The families of the 160 workers who have died on Alberta farms in the last decade deserve a response,” she says.
In January, the AFL wrote to Lukaszuk asking that the Farming and Ranching Exemption be amended to allow for investigations into all farm-related deaths, serious injuries, or injuries involving a child. This could be accomplished by extending section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act - which permits a Minister to convene a board of inquiry into the circumstance of an accident - to apply to the farming and ranching industries.
This change to the Farming and Ranching Exemption could be accomplished by a simple Order-in-Council and would result in a legal avenue for investigation into serious incidents involving paid farm workers. The information that would be obtained from these investigations would be invaluable in preventing future deaths and serious injuries on Alberta’s farms.
Today, the AFL has written a new letter to Lukaszuk, asking him to make this change – or explain to Albertans now why he won’t.
The AFL continues to urge the inclusion of all workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workers’ Compensation Act as the only equitable course of action. In 2008, after investigating the workplace death of Kevan Chandler, Justice Peter Barley recommended that farm workers be included in Alberta’s legislation to prevent future workplace injuries and deaths.
“Amending the Farming and Ranching Exemption would be a good first step towards making farms safer. It is inconsistent to say the government wants to improve farm safety when it does not investigate accidents to establish how they happened,” says Furlong.
MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy Furlong, AFL Secretary Treasurer @ 780.720-8945 (cell)