Opposition parties and labour groups are calling on the government to improve farm workers safety.
The Alberta NDP and the Alberta Federation of Labour want to know why the government stopped reporting farm fatalities.
"Alberta is far behind the rest of Canada in regards to farm workers safety," says NDP agriculture critic David Eggen. "We're finding it particular shocking because this year the provincial government has chosen to stop gathering information on statistics on farm workers in Alberta."
Eggen says the government should extend occupational health and safety regulations to farmer workers. During her spring election campaign, Premier Redford promised to extend health and safety regulations to farmer workers.
Liberal MLA David Swann says there are an average of 30 farm deaths a year over the last 20 years.
i880 News, Tues Aug 21 2012
EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour is criticizing the provincial government for no longer reporting farm fatalities.
The federation says the move is an example of how "agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta."
"This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem – Alberta's deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province," spokeswoman Nancy Furlong said in a release Monday.
"It's particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents."
The federation says the province is the only one in Canada where farm workers aren't covered by occupational health and safety laws. It says they are also excluded from legislation on hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays and vacation pay.
A judicial inquiry in 2008 into the death of worker Kevin Chandler in a farm accident near High River, Alta., recommended the inclusion of farm labourers in laws ensuring workplace protections.
"It is the government's duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries. Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents," said Furlong.
The federation says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
Alberta Agriculture said Monday it is reviewing how it publishes information about farm worker deaths and injuries with an eye to protecting the privacy of victims and their families.
Stuart Elson, a ministry spokesman, said updated statistics could be available later this week.
On the larger question of when or if the government will introduce workplace safety legislation to protect farms workers, Elson said at least two ministries are studying the issue.
"Education and awareness are best suited to the practical realities of farming," he said.
"We are continuing to work with the Ministry of Human Services to improve farm safety. That is all I can really say at this point."
The NDP's agriculture critic used a stop in Lethbridge, Alta., to blast the government for what he called inaction on workplace safety for farm workers.
David Eggen said it's disturbing that the lives of Alberta labourers on the land appear to mean so little to the government.
"It's very dangerous work and farm workers are not being protected with the basic rights that other workers have here in Alberta," Eggen said.
"They're far behind the rest of Canadian farm workers and now suddenly (Premier Alison) Redford makes the page go dark on the statistics that we can use to track farm workers here in the province."
Liberal critic David Swann said there are an average of 30 farm deaths a year over the last 20 years.
"Despite the number of injuries and deaths amongst farm workers ... the government has undertaken no action to require improved health and safety conditions surrounding paid agriculture employees," he said in a release.
Edmonton Journal, Monday Aug 20 2012
Government drops public reporting of farm deaths
EDMONTON – The Alberta government’s decision to withhold information on farm fatalities is an attempt to move the issue to the back burner and off the public radar, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the largest labour organization in Alberta. The AFL represents over 150,000 Alberta workers.
“Farm workers are already left unprotected under health and safety regulations,” says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"The decision to cease reporting fatalities is a painful example of how agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta,” says Furlong, The news the province would stop reporting information on farm worker deaths and injuries was delivered unceremoniously through a government website. The province offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
Alberta remains the only province where farm 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.
The Government of Alberta also continues to ignore the advice of one of its own judges. A judicial inquiry into the death of farm worker Kevin Chandler found Alberta’s discriminatory practice against farm workers unjustifiable. Still, the province has done nothing.
“It is the government’s duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries. Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents,” says Furlong, noting that the latest data available on the agency now reporting these statistics, the Canadian Agriculture Injury Reporting, is from 2005.
“The Alberta Federation of Labour declared August 20th as Farm Workers Day at our 2005 Convention, and has been calling on the government to allow farm workers the same protections as most Alberta workers enjoy,” says Furlong. “It’s particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents.”
“This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem – Alberta’s deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province,” concludes Furlong.
MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer 780-720-8945 (cell)
Lethbridge media contact:
Shannon Phillips, Director of Policy Analysis 403-330-7898
DMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour is chiding the provincial government for no longer reporting farm fatalities.
The union says the move is an example of how — quote — "agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta."
The union says the province is the only one where farm workers aren't covered by occupational health and safety laws.
It says they are also excluded from legislation on hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays and vacation pay.
A judicial inquiry in 2008 recommended the inclusion of farm workers in laws ensuring workplace protections.
The union says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
Global Edmonton, Mon Aug 20 2012
The Canadian Press
The United Steelworkers Canada (USW) union is marking the 20th anniversary of the fatal Westray mine explosion by renewing its call for increased enforcement of Bill C-45, federal legislation which amended the Criminal Code of Canada in 2004 to impose criminal negligence liability on organizations and their representatives.
Ken Neumann, the USW's national director, says that the union is putting together information packages on the legislation and plans to meet with attorney generals in each province and territory, who are responsible for upholding the Criminal Code. Peter MacKay, the MP for Central Nova, is taking the issue up with the Attorney General of Canada, he adds.
"What we are trying to do is start a campaign which is going to increase the education, the training and also the political will necessary in each of the provinces and territories to ensure that the legislation is used and prosecutions proceed," Neumann says.
"I think that once they get serious with it, you are in fact going to see the accident rate and fatality rate decrease. You can write the best legislation in the world, but if you are not going to enforce it, it is worthless."
To date, Quebec is the only province to successfully convict under Bill C-45.
In a letter to Alberta's newly appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Jonathan Denis, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan says that "every worker who is killed or seriously injured due to criminal negligence deserves to have their death investigated through the lens of C-45."
"I would also encourage you to direct police forces around the province to establish dedicated units to investigate worker deaths alongside investigators from the provincial government's occupational health and safety branch," McGowan writes. "Without dedicated units trained in the use of Bill C-45 provisions, I'm convinced that this important and powerful tool will never be used effectively as a deterrent to criminal negligence on the part of employers."
The announcement of the campaign in Ottawa on May 8 included MacKay, whose riding is home to the site of the former Westray coal mine and who was instrumental in gaining all-party support for Bill C-45. The 20th anniversary is being commemorated in Stellarton, Nova Scotia with a series of events, including an early morning vigil and an evening memorial service.
"On Parliament Hill, I am joining with others in a display of unity to mourn the loss of these men and to speak to an overhaul in legislation surrounding workplace conditions," MacKay adds in a press release. "I was proud to be a part of the 'Westray Bill,' or Bill C-45. The basic premise of this bill is safe mining is good business."
In the early morning hours of May 9, 1992 in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, an entire shift of 26 miners died when a spark ignited a pocket of methane gas inside the mine, causing a massive explosion. Although rescue efforts continued for a week after the explosion, there were no survivors and the bodies of 11 miners were never recovered.
Bill C-45 implementation guide released
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is marking the 20th anniversary by releasing a guide for investigating corporate negligence in the workplace. "The intentions of Parliament and the language of the amendments is clear, but the enforcement is lax and that has to change," says CLC secretary-treasurer Hassan Yussuff. "If an employer willfully neglects health safety knowing that someone can be injured or killed, they should be held criminally responsible. Our guide shows how that can be done."
The 20-page guide, available at www.canadianlabour.ca/sites/default/files/death-and-injury-at-work-en.pdf, includes background information on the accident, tips for police investigating corporate negligence, differences between Bill C-45 amendments and occupational health and safety legislation, and relevant Criminal Code provisions, among others.
"We believe that Parliament, back in 2004, did make the right decision," Neumann says. "The issue is now that the laws aren't enforced. I don't like this job of telling loved ones that their spouse isn't coming home from work."
OHS Canada, Tues May 15 2012
30 years ago: Fort McMurray will receive $2,199,000 in provincial funding under the Arterial Roadway, Public Transit and Transportation Systems Management programs.
Under the 5-year Trust Agreement public transit project are eligible for 100 per cent provincial subsidy assistance. Arterial roadway and transportation systems management projects are eligible for two-thirds total assistance.
15 years ago: This year's Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs will be remembered as the time the Fort McMurray Oil Barons exorcised the playoff demons of the past to win the Doyle Cup.
The Oil Barons swept the Olds Grizzlies aside in four games with relative ease. One demon exorcised.
Next on the list was the St. Albert Saints. Not a problem for the Barons who were now on a roll with six playoff wins in a row. Demon number two exorcised
5 years ago: One tank collapsed and killed two Chinese workers on April 24. A second collapsed on Saturday, May 19. And the Alberta Federation of Labour says a third tank is leaning heavily and is on the verge of collapse.
The federation is demanding the province suspend the contract of a Chinese firm erecting huge oil containers at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Horizon site 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
Occupational Health and Safety officials said no one was injured in the second incident.
Fort McMurray Today, Wed Apr 9 2012
On 20th anniversary of Westray disaster, Alberta unions call on Redford government to consider criminal prosecutions of employers responsible for worker deaths or injuries
Alberta has never used provisions of "Westray Act" even though it could act as an effective deterrent to corporate negligence
The president of Alberta's largest union organization today called on the Redford government to start making use of the nine-year-old federal Westray Act that allows investigators to launch criminal prosecutions against corporations and senior corporate managers who, through negligence or misdeeds, have caused their workers to be killed or injured on the job.
"The federal government has given the provinces the power to prosecute individual employers and managers under the Criminal Code, but the Alberta government has never taken advantage of those powers," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"That needs to change. Holding individual managers and CEOs personally responsible for workers deaths will provide a huge incentive for corporations to clean up their acts when it comes to workplace health and safety. Fines and civil prosecutions under the Occupational Health and Safety Code are not enough. If we're serious about promoting workplace safety, criminal prosecutions have to be part of the government's tool kit."
In a letter to Alberta's Jonathan Denis, Alberta's newly appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, McGowan said that every workplace death and serious injury "should be looked at through the lens of Bill C-45," the law passed in 2003 that amended the federal Criminal Code (click here for Westray Act). Under the amendments, corporations and corporate managers can be found criminally liable if they fail to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public on their worksites.
"Workers and their families deserve to know police have done more than rule out foul play," wrote McGowan. "Specifically, they need to know that authorities have investigated the possibility of criminal negligence. Indeed, it is now the law of the land in Canada. That law should be respected."
In addition to encouraging Denis to make criminal prosecution a regular part of the Alberta government's "tool kit" for promoting workplace safety, McGowan also encourage the Minister to direct police forces around the province to establish dedicated units to investigate worker deaths alongside investigators from the provincial government's occupational health and safety branch. Click here for the memorandum sent to all chiefs of police in Ontario by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections Services, dated March 30, 2004.
"Without dedicated units trained in the use of Bill C-45 provisions, I'm convinced that this important and powerful tool will never be used effectively as a deterrent to criminal negligence on the part of employers," said McGowan.
On May 9, 1992, 26 miners working underground at the Westray Mine in rural Nova Scotia were killed by a methane explosion. The company was found guilty on 18 non-criminal counts of operating an unsafe mine under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act. Criminal charges against senior company officers were dropped because, at the time, the Criminal Code did not allow for such prosecutions.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, President @ 780-218-9888 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (office)
Calgary mom tearfully remembers teenaged son electrocuted while helping to erect a party tent
Julie Hamilton knows by heart how many days since her son Tim was killed in a workplace accident (13 years, nine months and 19 days) and how many other lives have been taken since that fateful Stampede night (1,654).
Yet she believes not enough is being done.
During the National Day of Mourning, an annual event to remember workers injured or killed on the job, she asked for stricter legislation and accountability for companies that "disregard" human life.
"What's really wrong is nothing has been done about it," she said.
On July 9, 1999, Tim Hamilton, 19, was setting up a tent for a Calgary Stampede event the next day when a metal pole struck an overhead power line.
The 14,400 volts of electricity killed Tim instantly, and left a co-worker with electrical burns to his feet and hands.
In the end, the party rental company he worked for was fined $100,000 and declared bankruptcy, while charges against the company hosting the event were stayed.
"The prosecutors, the Justice Department have to step up and say this is not going to happen anymore," Julie Hamilton said.
A ceremony was held near Balzac on Saturday afternoon to remember the 123 people killed in workplace-related circumstances, including nine people from Calgary.
Only 39 of those were killed in workplace accidents, 28 in motor vehicle accidents and 56 from occupational diseases.
Andrew Shawman, the Alberta Human Services assistant deputy minister for workplace standards delivery, admits the current legislation regarding workplace health and safety is outdated.
"There has been public consultation over the next phase in refreshing our legislation and potentially making it clearer to meet industry today," Shawman said. "Industry moves at a pace and clearly it takes us time to catch up, for the legislation to meet the economy of today.
"I wouldn't say we are behind in legislation, but we can always be better."
Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour president, said part of the problem lies in the lack of health and safety inspectors in the province.
"We should have more health and safety inspectors on the ground, we should be spending more on health and safety programs, and we should be leading the pack in terms of prosecution of employers," he said, noting these aspects are all well behind the Canadian average.
Last year, the Alberta government convicted 20 people of various offences relating to fatalities, injuries and possible exposure to asbestos. This number is up from 11 in 2010.
Currently, there are 16 companies with active charges in Alberta.
"There are a lot of companies working hard to do what's right and then there are companies that don't," Hamilton said, believing the negligent companies should be criminally charged.
Shawman, however, states part of the problems lies in the workplace culture, despite increased education.
"It's an employee responsibility with the employers," Shawman said. "We do see that people take risks and they have their training.
"Roofers will have their training and full protection equipment, but they won't wear it or they'll wear a harness but no rope."
As for Hamilton, she now spends her time talking with companies about how important safety is in the workplace, trying to keep her son's death from being in vain.
"I do it because it feels real good to talk about Tim. In my head, it keeps him alive," Hamilton said, fighting back tears behind her sunglasses.
In Edmonton, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees announced it is working with the University of Calgary to discuss the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on its front-line social workers, which amount to about 2,400 of their 80,000 members.
"A lot of these people, as a part of their profession absorbs your clients' past and to be able to be sympathetic and empathetic, you take on some of that pain and after years, it takes a toll," said AUPE president Guy Smith, a former social worker himself.
While PTSD is typically discussed with returning soldiers, Smith said longtime social workers start to battle depression, emotional displays, appetite, adding it affects everyone differently.
Calgary Herald, Sun Apr 29 2012
Byline: Bryce Forbes
High death rate shows more must be done to protect workers, says labour groups
A monument to dead workers will be unveiled in Edmonton on the National Day of Mourning tomorrow (Saturday), but the death toll at Alberta workplaces shows little sign of slowing down.
"There are 123 families in Alberta who are grieving for the family members they lost last year, people who died last year as a result of going to work," says Brian Henderson, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC).
"While it's a drop from the previous year's total of 136 dead, it's still higher than two years ago, when 110 were killed. Year after year, we see too many workers die in Alberta. This is a dangerous place to work and we need to do more to keep Albertans safe," he said.
The monument to Alberta's Broken Families will be unveiled in Edmonton's Grant Notley Park at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. Made of stainless steel, granite and concrete, the obelisk stands 14 feet tall and 10 feet wide at the base. On each of the four sides, a family is seen, cast in bronze – but with one family member missing - one family member who went to work, but didn't come home.
"This monument not only commemorates those who have died before, it aims to educate people so future deaths can be prevented," says Henderson. "It is fitting that it will be in the park named after Grant Notley, the former MLA and leader of the NDP, a great public servant who lost his life in a 1984 plane crash while representing the people of this province."
The family of Grant Notley gave their permission for the obelisk to be located in the park. "I know what it's like to lose a beloved family member," says Rachel Notley, newly re-elected NDP MLA for Edmonton Strathcona. "My father died in a plane crash while working for the people of Alberta. Having this monument in the park that bears his name just feels right."
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says that while the government has taken small steps to improve workplace safety, including a limited increase in the number of safety inspectors, much more needs to be done.
"The government has still failed to respond to a judge's three-year-old recommendation to include agricultural workers in healthy and safety legislation after an inquiry into the death of Kevan Chandler. It is shameful that Alberta farm workers are denied the basic rights of all other workers – the right be covered by Employment Standards and Occupation Health and Safety rules and to refuse to do unsafe work and to," he says.
"Premier Alison Redford publicly promised to fix this while she was running for the leadership of her party. Now that she's won an election, we expect her to fulfil this pledge to protect vulnerable Alberta workers," says McGowan.
Henderson, Notley and McGowan will be among the speakers at the unveiling ceremony, as will the artist who created the obelisk, Memi von Gaza.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Brian Henderson, EDLC president, 780-940-6797
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
National Day of Mourning events around Alberta:
National Day of Mourning ceremonies will be held in communities around the province, including:
- April 27th – Calgary and District Labour Council – Wreath-laying ceremony and memorial service at 11:00 a.m., at the City of Calgary Workers Memorial (Edward Place Park, SW corner of City Hall, 9th Avenue and MacLeod Trail S.E.);
- April 28th – Edmonton and District Labour Council – "Broken Families Obelisk" dedication and ceremony – 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Grant Notley Park, 11603 – 100 Avenue;
- April 28th – Yellowhead Labour Council – ceremony at 11:00 a.m., Jesse Turgeon Park (Guild – across from the mill), Hinton;
- April 28th – Fort McMurray & District Labour Council, 11:00 a.m., Howard Pew Memorial Park, Tolen Drive (Railway Avenue), Fort McMurray; and
- April 28th – Medicine Hat and District Labour Council, 11:00 a.m., at the Memorial at the foot of Scholten Hill, Medicine Hat.
Alberta's largest union is calling on the government to tighten transportation safety regulations lest migrant workers in that province suffer a similar fate to those killed in a recent crash in Ontario that claimed 11 lives.
"The lax laws governing how farm workers can be taken to and from work sites are a recipe for disaster," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
McGowan notes that in Alberta it is legal for farm workers to ride in the back of pickup trucks and larger trucks due to an exemption to the Alberta Traffic Safety Act/Rules of the Road Regulation.
"The government says it's wrong for all other Albertans to travel in this unsafe way, but says it's OK for farm workers. Why? Are their lives worth any less?"
On Feb. 7, 10 migrant workers from Peru were killed in a horrific collision in the hamlet of Hampstead, west of Waterloo, Ontario, when their 15-passenger van ran a stop sign and collided with a flatbed truck.
Eleven people were killed in the accident including the driver of the truck, making it Ontario's worst crash in at least a decade.
Fifteen-passenger vans such as the one involved in the Ontario crash have been dubbed "death traps on wheels" by some U.S. safety experts, and banned by the U.S. government for the transportation of children.
The vans have also been banned in Nova Scotia, and from transporting public school students in New Brunwick and Quebec, while some Alberta school boards will no longer insure them.
However, Alberta and most other provinces continue to allow farm workers to travel in the vans.
The lax laws governing how farm workers can be taken to and from work sites are a recipe for disaster.
The AFL is calling on the Alberta government to end the exemption for riding in the back of trucks, ban the use of 15-passenger vans, and outlaw vans that do not meet acceptable safety standards, among other improvements for migrant workers.
"During her campaign to become premier, Alison Redford promised tougher rules to protect farm workers," says McGowan. "Farm workers have the right to the same protections as all other Albertans. We expect the premier, as a human rights lawyer, to recognize this and fulfill her pledge now."
On Feb. 17, around 50 protesters gathered outside the Office of the Chief Coroner in Toronto, calling for an inquest into the deaths of the workers killed in the Feb. 7 collision as well as for laws to better protect all foreign workers in Ontario.
The protest was led by worker's rights group Justicia for Migrant Workers, which says that despite several tragedies involving migrant workers, there has never been a coroner's inquest conducted in Ontario to examine the death of a worker employed under the temporary foreign workers program.
"As we mourn this tragedy it is important that we take immediate steps to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again," says the group's organizer, Chris Ramsaroop.
In 2007, three female farm workers were killed in B.C. when a van carrying 16 workers overturned on an Abbottsford highway, about 70 km southeast of Vancouver. Only two of the passenger seats were equipped with seat belts.
Epoch Times, Wed Feb 22 2012