Farm workers deserve same

Re: "WCB to cover volunteer firefighters who get cancer on job; Bill provides same benefits as full-timers get," The Journal, May 11.

The Alberta Federation of Labour welcomes the news that Alberta will extend Workers' Compensation Board coverage to include volunteer firefighters.

These courageous people -whether professional or volunteer -put their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of Albertans. Theirs is a dangerous occupation. They deserve to be protected and are entitled to the same compensation benefits as other workers.

As Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says: "At the end of the day this is not about dollars and cents."

One wonders, then, how he can justify continuing to exclude agricultural workers from the same workplace compensation coverage. Theirs, too, is a dangerous occupation. In the nine years the Alberta government has been consulting on how to improve safety for agricultural workers, 160 people have died on farm work sites.

They do important work -putting food on the tables of Albertans. This is the only province that maintains 19th century rules, 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.

This is not about dollars and cents, it's about doing what's right -that means extending the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers' Compensation Act to cover paid farm workers.

Gil McGowan, president, Alberta Federation of Labour

Edmonton Journal, Mon May 16 2011

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