Despite years of promises, agricultural workers still excluded from provincial health and safety legislation
Edmonton - Polling shows 82 per cent of Albertans say that agricultural workers should be covered by same basic workplace protection laws as everyone else in the province.
The polling was conducted by Environics on Monday, in advance of the annual Day of Mourning on April 28, an annual observance that commemorates those who lost their lives as a result of work-related accidents or occupational diseases.
“Agricultural work is dangerous work. The law should reflect that,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Agricultural workers in Alberta don’t have the basic safety rights that every other worker in Alberta have. They don’t have the right to know about the dangers in a workplace, they don’t have the right to refuse unsafe work. And because of the lack of these basic safety laws, too many agricultural workers are injured or killed on the job in Alberta.”
The exemption for agricultural work is more than just farms – it includes feed lots and a variety of agribusiness. The causes of death for workers in these industries include machinery accidents, livestock accidents, falls, getting crushed by hay bales, vehicle crashes, falling objects, drowning and chemical toxicity.
“This exemption for agricultural workers is supposedly to protect family farms. But it’s clear that it doesn’t protect family farms – it makes all agricultural workplaces more dangerous,” McGowan said. “Agricultural workers were excluded from health and safety legislation at a time when most farms were family run. Times have changed. Agriculture is big business. More machines are used. More chemicals are onsite. Farms are bigger, with bigger dangers, faster work, and less room for error.”
The polling showed that while a vast majority of Albertans support workplace protection laws for agricultural workers, almost 70 per cent of respondents were previously unaware that farm workers in Alberta currently have no such legal protections.
“Over the last decade, there have been concrete promises of reform from the government, but to date nothing has been done,” McGowan said. “It’s time to take action on this. And it’s clear that the vast majority of Albertans would support a leader who took action, and who brought in workplace safety laws for agricultural workers.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
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