Local rancher Tim Harvie applauds the Government of Alberta’s introduction of Bill 26.
The new bill, announced Nov. 20, will repeal the Enhanced Protection for Farms and Ranch Workers Act, commonly referred to as Bill 6.
“Bill 6 was a repressive, imposing, expensive, and impractical approach to farm safety and working conditions,” Harvie told the Cochrane Eagle.
“Farm safety is of the utmost importance on all good farming operations. The new Act provides for choice and practical alternatives to achieve farm safety and working conditions.”
Key changes to the bill include: employment standards, labour relations, occupational health and safety, and workers’ compensation.
Farms and ranches with five or fewer employees, not including family members and employees who work less than six months consecutively, are exempt from all employment standards. Operations with more than five waged, non-family employees are required to meet employment standards, with some exceptions. Operations can include nurseries, greenhouses, mushroom and sod.
Farms and ranches are now exempt from the Labour Relations Code while farms and ranches with waged, non-family workers, are still required to meet basic safety standards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
With respect to worker’s compensation, farms and ranches with more than five waged, non-family employees are required to have workplace insurance of their choosing.
Labour relations changes took effect Nov. 20, while other changes will take effect Jan. 31, 2020.
“All farm operations will benefit from the proposed changes,” said Harvie.
“Applying the Labor Relations Code to farming and ranching just doesn’t work for us. Hours of operation are often dependent on the weather and job at hand. Punching a clock does not work.”
Harvie feels the government handled the legislation “correctly” by consulting with participants in the industry including organizations that Harvie belongs to.
“As long as the Act provides for affordable and practical choice in achieving farm safety and good working conditions, I have no further concerns.” Harvie is a grain farmer and ranches in the Cochrane area.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan sees Bill 26 as a “giant step backward” for farm, ranch and agricultural workers in the province.
“Bill 26 will make farm and ranch workplaces less safe,” McGowan said in a press release.
“Removing mandatory Worker’s Compensation coverage sets a horrible precedent. Albertans will no longer be able to track farm and ranch injury rates for the province and farms will private insurance will be at risk for lawsuits.”
He added that farm and ranch workers will be exempt from the Labour Relations Code and will lose their right to collectively bargain and form a union.