On November 16, 2015, government house leader Brian Mason served
notice in the legislature of plans to introduce Bill 6 - the Enhanced Protection of Farm
Workers Act. The new bill, if passed into law,
would affect approximately 43,000 farms and ranches and 60,000
workers in Alberta, and would:
subject farms and ranches to occupational health and safety
require Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for the
agricultural sector (currently, farmers can opt out of
remove exemptions from employment standards legislation that
previously excluded farms and ranches; and
allow agricultural workers to join unions and bargain for terms
and conditions of employment.
Historically, Canadian agricultural workers had been excluded
from the above protections on the premise that it would antagonize
the unique nature of the “family farm”. However,
commercial farming operations have all but replaced the
stereotypical “family farm”, and the Alberta
government’s move to introduce these protections are in line
with the general trend towards increased protection of agricultural
workers in Canada. The government is touting the bill
as being long overdue given that in the last 30 years, there have
been 450 farm-related fatalities, 25 of which occurred in the last
year. One devastating example occurred on October 13, 2015,
which involved three young girls on a family farm in Withrow,
Alberta. The girls were playing on a grain truck loaded with canola
when they were buried in the grain. While this unfortunate
incident was not work-related, it demonstrates the inherit risks
associated with farming activities and supports the position that
some level of regulation may be required to ensure the safety of
individuals that work in this environment.
Over the next month and a half, the government plans to consult
farmers, ranchers and industry groups to get their input with
regards to the proposed bill. It is anticipated that amendments to
the Occupational Health and Safety
Act and the Worker’s Compensation
Regulation will take effect on January 1, 2016, and amendments
to the Employment Standards Code
and the Labour Relations Code
are expected to be introduced in the spring of 2016.
More information on the proposed bill can be found here.
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