By Jamie Rieger
For more than a decade, Eric Musekamp and Darlene Dunlop have been pushing for farm worker rights, and have been particularly fighting for health and safety legislation and Workers Compensation coverage.
“This will include agriculture with other industries and is what we were always looking for. This is our twelfth year of working on this,” said Musekamp, who is president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta. “I am relieved the government is moving forward with it.”
The province, along with stakeholders will sit down and develop the rules that will be established for the legislation.
“Everyone deserves a safe, fair, and healthy workplace. With this bill, workplace legislation will now extend to farms and ranches. The rules we implement must respect the unique qualities of the farm and ranch industry, and I look forward to working with industry members to develop rules that make sense,” said Lori Sigurdson, minister of Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour.
These rules involving occupational health and safety rules will be developed over the next year and are expected to be put in place in 2017. If Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act passes, the amended OHS Act changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, with Workers Compensation board coverage taking effect the same day. Amendments to the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code would take place next spring.
“We know farmers and ranchers are concerned about providing safe and fair workplaces, and I look forward to our discussions with them as we work out the details on the best way to do it,” said Oneil Carlier, minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
Musekamp said producers have to be part of the discussions and part of the development of the rules.
While several town hall meetings have been scheduled for various locations in the province, none have been planned for the southeast corner of the province. The first of the town hall meetings will take place in Grand Prairie on Nov. 26. In December, four have been planned, including Red Deer on Dec. 1, Calgary area (Okotoks) on Dec. 2, Lethbridge on Dec. 3, and Edmonton on Dec. 7. An online survey is also available on the Government of Alberta website.
More information can be found at work.alberta.ca/farmandranch.