After three weeks of vociferous criticism from farmers,
ranchers, industry groups and opposition parties, Alberta's NDP
Government has made an about turn on controversial Bill 6 - the Enhanced Protection of Farm Workers
Act. On December 7, 2015, Labour Minister Lori
Sigurdson and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier vowed to introduce
a number of amendments to Bill 6, which will
have the effect of excluding farm and ranch owners, and their
families and unpaid neighbours, from occupational health and safety
regulations as well as Workers' Compensation Board coverage.
Under the amended Bill, families may still elect to choose
Workers' Compensation coverage for family members and unpaid
individuals (i.e. neighbours); however, such registration would be
Forced to backpedal days before the Alberta legislature rises
for its winter break, the Government has been widely criticized for
a lack of consultation with farmers and ranchers in pushing forward
Bill 6. In particular, Alberta Hutterite colonies raised
concerns that the original Bill was at odds with the community
lifestyle associated with Hutterite farming operations. During
question period on December 7, 2015, Premier Notley blamed
"miscommunication" with Albertans for the heavily
criticized roll-out of the Bill, stating the legislation was never
intended to apply to families and neighbours. However, this appears
to be at odds with various documents published by the
Government's own departments during the early days of Bill 6
which explicitly indicated that Workers' Compensation Board
coverage and occupational health and safety regulations would apply
to unpaid workers of for-profit farming operations, such as
families and neighbours.
Following the announcement of the amendments, the Alberta
Federation of Labour immediately moved to endorse Bill
6. Labour groups such as the Alberta Federation of
Labour appear to be quite interested in those workers employed in
large-scale agricultural operations such as feedlots, greenhouses
and factory farms. Bill 6 will eliminate the exemptions under
the Employment Standards
Code for farms and ranches, and allow
agricultural workers to collectively bargain under the Labour
Relations Code. Unions likely see opportunities in organizing
workers employed by large-scale agricultural operations.
Bill 6 and the proposed amendments will affect about 43,000
farms and ranches with 60,000 workers in Alberta in the following
Farms and ranches will be subjected to occupational health and
safety regulations only where non-owner or non-family waged
individuals are involved in their operations, and only then to
those non-owner and non-family waged individuals;
Workers' Compensation Board coverage will be required for
the agricultural sector only where non-owner or non-family waged
individuals are involved in its operation, and only then to those
non-owner and non-family waged individuals (families may elect to
provide Workers' Compensation Board coverage for family members
and unpaid individuals);
It will remove exemptions from the Employment Standards
Code that previously excluded farms and ranches; and
It will allow agricultural workers to join unions and bargain
the terms and conditions of employment collectively.
As noted in our previous blog on this topic,
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 that
amendments to the Employment Standards Code and the
Labour Relations Code will be introduced in the spring of
2016. The aggressive timeline to have farmers and ranchers included
in Alberta employment statutes is arguably perfunctory,
particularly in light of the turbulent introduction and the
subsequent amendments that have already been made to Bill 6.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).