Employment minister under pressure to change farm-safety laws: There are growing calls to extend legislation to cover farm workers, says AFL

Edmonton - As the death toll continues on Alberta farms, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) today called on Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk to do the right thing and extend health and safety laws to protect farm workers.

"Three more Alberta farm workers have died in recent weeks, and yet the government continues with its absurd policy of excluding farms and ranches from the laws designed to make workplaces safe in other industries," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers.

Today, the AFL sent a letter to Minister Lukaszuk, calling on him to extend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers' Compensation Act to cover all paid farm workers.

The AFL also requested that the Farming and Ranching Exemption be amended to allow for investigations into all farm-related deaths, serious injuries, or injuries involving a child. This could be accomplished by extending Section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which permits a Minister to convene a board of inquiry into the circumstance of an accident, to apply to the farming and ranching industries.

The letter says: "We note that in the recent deaths Occupational Health and Safety inspectors have been unable to conduct investigations due to the continuing exemption of paid farm workers from the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It is inconsistent to say the province wants to improve farm safety when it does not investigate accidents to establish how they happened."

This change to the Farming and Ranching Exemption could be accomplished by a simple Order-in-Council and would result in a legal avenue for investigations into serious incidents involving paid farm workers.

There have been more than 160 accidental farm deaths in the last decade, clear evidence that farms are industrial worksites like any other and that farm workers deserve the same protection as other Albertans. "These tragic accidents underline the absurdity of paid farm workers being excluded from the protection that other Albertans enjoy," says McGowan in the letter.

"There is a growing feeling in Alberta that farm workers deserve the same protection that other Albertans enjoy and that accidents on farms must be investigated," says McGowan. Similar letters are being been sent to the Minister by NDP MLA Rachel Notley, the Alberta Liberals and by Wayne Hanley, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada.

Media Contact:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-218-9888 or office 780-483-3021

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