By Justin Seward
Alberta’s Ministry of Labour Christina Gray canceled her Redcliff trip to consult with greenhouse owners on the changes to the labour laws that were implemented by the NDP government in January.
The NDP government’s Bill 17 in conjunction with the labour laws changes, no longer provides an exemption for greenhouses and staff they employee. Greenhouses previously were categorized as agriculture but now will be treated as an “industrial” operation.
“We’re pretty disappointed,” said Albert Cramer, chair of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association.
“She was suppose to come on Wednesday to for a visit to the greenhouses and we were going to try and convince her this is agriculture and it is very important to us and Alberta and she cancels on us. I know in government everything comes up. She’s not seeing the urgency in this.”
Cramer said with the change, overtime will have to paid to their workers, which becomes a much bigger issue.
“The first thing is we our agriculture,” said Cramer.
“How are you looking at us as not agriculture? I think to be fair to us as a greenhouse industry,growing vegetables and food that you need to look at all of agriculture, not just pick on a small indictment of agriculture. That’s our fight with the government right now, like what happened. They were so consultation and we find out through the grapevine that we’re not even agriculture anymore.”
He added the last thing the government wanted greenhouse growers to do was to go and asked their employees to see if they wanted overtime and whether or not they wanted to accept it.
“We had 87 per cent of all employees from the greenhouse industry in Medicine Hat and some of the bigger areas around Alberta that did this and didn’t want overtime and wanted more hours,” said Cramer.
“Because with the minimum wage and now having to pay over time, it’s very hard for us as growers to pay overtime. Now we’re looking at hiring more people or just cutting back on labour.”
The Ministry of Labour did not respond for comment by our deadline.