Redford reneges on farm worker safety

Seeds of reform fail to germinate when report omits update to Occupational Health and Safety Act

Edmonton – Workers in Alberta's agriculture sector deserve better says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The Alberta Farm Safety Advisory (AFSA) Council report, which was released by the government this week, failed to recommend the inclusion of farm workers in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Farm workers are the only workers in Alberta who are excluded from the Act.

“Alison Redford promised change to Alberta's agricultural workers, but she's letting those promises go fallow.” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “More than 300 farm workers are seriously injured every year. Seventeen die each year. The results of this report will do little to change that.”

The AFSA Council had representatives from industry and government, but only one labour representative. Recommendations included:

Strategic, Province-wide Coordination and Awareness; Enhanced Educational Resources, Training and Certification; Farm-Related Policies and Guidelines; and Strengthening the agriculture workers component of the current Temporary Foreign Worker Advisory Office.

“Many farms in Alberta are already well run. These are the kinds of farms that will follow all the new guidelines, and all the new policies that come out of this report,” McGowan said. “The problem is that there are farms where you see the appalling labour practices. Those are the ones that won't improve their behaviour unless there is regulatory change.”

The report, which began almost two years ago, has been complete for more than a year, but the Alberta Government had been sitting on it. It was only made public on Tuesday. During the lead-up to her selection as Premier, Alison Redford promised to provide OHSA protection for farm workers.

“Alberta's agricultural workers deserve the same protections, same health and safety regulation that every other Albertan enjoys,” McGowan said. “Until the government acts, there will continue to be too many workplace accidents on Alberta's farms and agricultural operations.”



Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email

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