Thousands of accidents, dozens of deaths every year on Alberta farms prove modernization of agricultural employment laws needed
Edmonton – Alberta’s agricultural workers are more than twice as likely to be killed on the job than other Albertans, according to an internal government report.
The report, which was obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour through a freedom of information request, is dated February 16, 2015, and shows that an estimated 18-20 Alberta farm workers will die in a work related accident every year. The report also shows that there will be more than 4,000 work related injuries on Alberta’s farms, and that at least 400 workers will be out of commission for two or more months because of their injuries.
“I’ve worked on a feed lot, and I’ve always known that agricultural work is dangerous work. But the magnitude of these numbers is eye-opening,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said. “This utterly repudiates the arguments against basic workplace protections for agricultural employees. Anyone who reads this report and still says that Alberta doesn’t need common-sense agricultural workplace laws has no heart.”
The report, which was created while the Progressive Conservative government was in power, calculates that agricultural workers lose a combined total of more than $10 million in wages every year due to lost-time injuries. It also shows that for most agricultural employers, WCB coverage costs less, and therefore makes more sense than private insurance.
“The report highlights the number of workers who have accidents – or are killed – and for whom there is insufficient insurance or no insurance at all,” McGowan said. “This document shows that the problem existed, that the research showed that reforms were necessary, and that this was ignored by successive Conservative governments who did nothing. This is almost criminal neglect that directly cost some Albertans their lives.”
More than 50,000 Albertans work in the agricultural sector. They account for 2.6 per cent of our workforce — and until the government of Premier Rachel Notley started work reforming the laws around agricultural workplaces, they had few legal protections.
WCB statistics collected since the Notley government passed the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act show that the legislation has been effective, with 763 claims from agricultural workers being processed, including 407 involving a disabling injury.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.