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Alberta farmers, workers weigh in as safety laws are rewritten

On the 1,200-acre money crop operation run by Invoice McFarquhar and his son Cameron, close to Cremona, Alta, nature is taking its course. 

Whereas barley, peas, canola and wheat develop within the discipline, the McFarquhars spend their summer time days getting gear prepared for what’s anticipated to be a late harvest. 

They may in all probability clear their fields earlier than the provincial authorities introduces its Farm Freedom and Security Act. The identify is indicative of how Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Celebration authorities views the 2016 Enhanced Safety for Farm and Ranch Employees Act enacted by its predecessor, the New Democratic Celebration.

Invoice McFarquhar says the largest drawback with the laws is that labour attorneys and specialists had extra enter than farmers. “They tried to put us into a box that was build for construction, mining, forestry or the resource industry,” he says “One size does not fit all.”

Earlier than Invoice 6 was handed in January 2016, Alberta agriculture and farming operators have been exempt from occupational well being and security rules and obligatory protection by  Employees’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage. Alberta was the one province in Canada that did not require such employee protections and protection.

The brand new requirements prompted indignant protests, and repealing Invoice 6 grew to become a key election promise for the UCP. 

Now, the province’s Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen is holding that promise, holding session periods with farmers throughout the province to search out out what they wish to take away, tweak or change in new laws.

There’s additionally an survey that agriculture staff or operators can fill out on-line. 

At a current session in Olds, a bit over an hour north of Calgary, Dreeshen advised a bunch of a number of dozen farmers, “We want to hear exactly from you how we can improve this bad legislation.”  

Alberta farmers, workers weigh in as safety laws are rewritten 1
Farmers seek the advice of with Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen on what they want to see in security laws promised by the UCP authorities. (ColIn Corridor/CBC)

Dreeshen says what they’re listening to at these periods is fairly constant — “everything from having choice in insurance to actually having OH and S (occupational health and safety) rules that actually apply on a farm.”

Some farmers want to carry personal insurance coverage for staff as an alternative of, slightly than along with, WCB.  

The federal government has promised “choice,” in order that appears prone to occur, though it is not clear how it might work. 

CBC Information was requested to not report the periods so these attending the assembly may very well be comfy talking freely. 

Alberta farmers, workers weigh in as safety laws are rewritten 2
Dreeshen opens a session session with farmers in Olds, Alta. (CBC)

A number of of those that attended stated the battle over Invoice 6 has left a lingering impression that their agriculture operations are unsafe workplaces and so they do not care in regards to the well-being of the greater than 50,000 farm staff who make a residing in Alberta agriculture. 

Invoice McFarquhar says he isn’t towards labour rules and notes he started carrying WCB for his household farm greater than a decade earlier than it was legally required.

However he says the brand new laws must acknowledge what is exclusive about farming. “Working eight hours a day, five days a week doesn’t fit the model. Livestock has to be fed and cared for 365 days a year regardless of weather or work schedules.” 

Do not ship us again into the Darkish Ages.— Philippa Thomas

Farm security advocate Philippa Thomas is apprehensive remodeling Invoice 6 might find yourself rewinding hard-won farm staff’ safety. “Don’t send us back into the Dark Ages.” 

Thomas was injured in 2006, lengthy earlier than Alberta required staff compensation protection for farm staff. So she had no insurance coverage protection when she received a small minimize on her finger whereas working in a horse steady.

She contracted flesh-eating illness and developed a uncommon nerve illness in her proper arm that has left her in agonizing ache and unable to work. “I have begged for an amputation.”

Alberta farmers, workers weigh in as safety laws are rewritten 3
Security advocate Philippa Thomas fills out a web-based survey on new farm security legal guidelines. Thomas was severely injured in a steady in 2006. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

She has stuffed her days chatting with and on behalf of injured farm staff. Thomas is attempting to remain open-minded in regards to the modifications the brand new authorities will make. However she is in search of assurances that Alberta will not go for the minimal, relating to security rules and insurance coverage protection.

“My only goal, if I do nothing else in my life and I leave this Earth tomorrow, that I know I have done something worthwhile to protect these workers.”

Dreeshen says the brand new laws will give farmers the flexibleness and selection they want and can defend staff within the occasion of an harm. However he would not decide to the identical stage of protections the WCB supplies now.

“We are going to go to the end of August with these consultations and when we introduce legislation, it’s going to be something that actually works for farmers and farm workers.”

The Farm Freedom invoice is predicted to be launched this fall.

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