Siobhan Vipond, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour released the following statement for Alberta Farm Workers Day 2020
EDMONTON – Each year, August 20 marks Alberta Farm Workers Day. Unfortunately, this year is the first Alberta Farm Workers Day since the roll back of farm worker rights in Alberta; meaning that agricultural workers are again a group of Alberta workers being denied their basic rights.
While the previous NDP government had enshrined farm workers’ basic rights and protections under provincial legislation – the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act, the Employment Standards Code, and the Labour Relations Code – the current UCP government acted quickly last year to roll back most of these rights and protections and used that opportunity to make things even worse for farm workers.
The passing of Bill 26: The Farm Freedom and Safety Act in November, was a giant step backwards for farm, ranch and agriculture workers in Alberta. These workers were taken back to no longer having the basic workplace rights enjoyed by their counterparts in every other Canadian province.
In fact, the UCP’s legislation went beyond repealing the workplace protections put in place under the previous government. It took Alberta even further backwards by adding more exempted workers in previously covered industries such as greenhouses and mushroom farms, removing mandatory Workers Compensation coverage, stripping away the fundamental right of farm workers to collectively bargain or join a union, and exempting temporary workers from the very basic employment standards protections that other workers in Alberta count on.
Every Albertan should be concerned by the UCP government’s heartless and vengeful desire to weaken, or even eliminate, health and safety rules for our province’s farms and ranch workers. Reducing workplace protections for agriculture workers was only the beginning. It is clear this government is actively looking to reduce health and safety protections for workers in other industries, as well. An important reminder that we are all in this together.
Agriculture remains the most dangerous industry in Alberta. This, on top of the added dangers these workers are experiencing having to do their jobs during a global health pandemic, means we need to speak up louder than ever.
To mark Alberta Farm Workers Day 2020, let us all recommit to fighting for the rights of Alberta’s farm workers.
Director of Communications, AFL