Government must stand strong on protecting farm and ranch workers’ rights

Technical working group reports released today show need for strong leadership

Edmonton – In response to today’s reports released from the technical working groups on the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, the Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on the Alberta government to move forward with implementing strong basic rights protections and regulations for all farm and ranch workers.

“We are calling on the government to show continued leadership in standing up for some of Alberta’s most vulnerable workers by enacting Employment Standards that stand up for Alberta’s farm and ranch workers,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Given that the vast majority of agricultural workers in Alberta are not unionized, whatever regulations are put in place for the Employment Standards Code will serve as the basic floor of minimum rights for most Albertans working in the agriculture sector.”

McGowan raised concerns about three problematic recommendations from the Employment Standards working group: expanding paid non-family youth employment in the industry for 12 and 13 year olds, adding brand new exemptions for greenhouses, and exemptions for family-members.

“When you allow kids that young to work for pay, it is a suggestion that they should be able to do potentially dangerous jobs such as operating heavy machinery,” McGowan said. “Our concerns about this are primarily about safety – we have to keep our kids safe.”
The technical working groups were formed last year to provide guidance to the Alberta government on designing workplace regulations on how best to implement changes to Occupational Health and Safety, Labour Relations and Employment Standards legislation. Among the points that they agreed on at the Labour Relations working group is the fact that the government should recognize the right of workers to unionize.

“All that’s happening here is that they’re recognizing a constitutional right, and giving workers the choice to organize if they want to,” McGowan said. “It’s a constitutional right that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and is recognized everywhere else in Canada. It’s recognized in B.C., in Saskatchewan, in Manitoba, in Ontario – and hasn’t led to the end of family farms anywhere.”

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected].

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