Include farm workers

Re: "Justice for firefighters," Editorial, May 12.

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 Albertans' lives and property. 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, and being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job.

This is 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, Edmonton Gil McGowan is president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Calgary Herald, Mon May 16 2011

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