To the Editor:
This letter is in response to a letter to the editor, Lethbridge Herald, Saturday December 19 titled “Bill 6 will mean safer, healthier workers”. Because of premature and poorly designed decisions by politicians a huge rift has developed between urban and rural residents. City people are mixing up union propaganda and safety issues. Rumors are rampant accusing farmers of abusing their employees. Our problem has nothing to do with not wanting insurance but rather being forced into a rushed, faulty WCB with rules that keep changing. You would not want to sign a blank contract with a bank and then have the figures filled in later. Farmers see Bill 6 as the same issue.
Most farm owners today are educated and experienced businessmen who value employees, working side by side. Farm workers are free to decline any job they feel is unsafe. We do not underpay. Average wage is between $17 and $22 per hour, far above present minimum wage. Accident rate is on a par with the rest of Canadian agriculture. They all get a day or two off weekly, quite often with flexible hours. Most employees have a good vehicle and decent housing, some provided by the farmer. Some perks could include a side of beef, garden produce, and use of a vehicle or an occasional tank of gas.
As for health and safety issues, some farmers have insurance already and would welcome a choice of companies. WCB only covers the worker while at work and not on the way to or from the job, no coverage for family members. They get basic health care the same as all Albertans.
Some private companies provide benefits for the farm workforce including dental, extended health and accident insurance 24/7 for the entire family. I am suspicious of the motives of a government that would force this Bill 6 through without discussion first. The proper way to handle it would have been to make it mandatory to have insurance for all farmers and give them the choice of WCB or an acceptable private company.