Alberta Hutterite colonies want exemption from farm worker compensation bill

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Mandatory workers compensation premiums would cost Alberta Hutterite colonies more than $22 million a year, said the Hutterite business adviser with accounting firm MNP.

Gord Tait said his clients are not only concerned about the potential cost of the mandatory coverage but that it infringes on their Hutterite religious beliefs.

Tait, who is an adviser to more than 20,000 Hutterites in Alberta, said they have had no discussion with government officials on how the proposed legislation would affect colonies.

Hutterite Brethren live a communal lifestyle with communally shared property and look after their own families from birth to death.

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As a result, they don’t need workers compensation, Tait said before the first of nine farm safety consultation meetings was held in the province to discuss workplace safety legislation.

“There is a pretty strong commitment from colonies to look after everyone for their entire lives. They’ve had their own workers compensation in place for 500 years,” he said.


“Colonies have a strong commitment to provide all things to all their members for their entire life. It is a massive obligation.”

Under the proposed bill, all farms would pay workers compensation premiums based on wages paid. Colony members are not paid a salary and premiums would be based on a value of service.

Workers compensation would be unworkable with no single owner or employees, he said.

Allowing colonies to opt out of mandatory coverage would not create a double standard for colonies and other farmers, he added.

Tait said colonies may be opposed to mandatory workers compensation, but they do believe in improved safety standards.

“The colonies always support the development of increased safety and security standards to have a safe work place.”


The death of a 10-year-old boy while driving a forklift on the Lougheed Colony a week earlier was an unfortunate accident, he said.

Tait said he came to the meeting to learn how the proposed legislation would affect colonies.

“There are pretty far reaching, scary things that will be discussed here,” he said.

“They have cast a pretty big net, and it concerns us.”



  • James

    what about The colonies involved in manufacturing? Lots of equipment for the oilfield, and ag industry built by colonies. should they be exempt for those things?

    Colonies making it very very hard to compete in Agriculture is many spots in the province should they be given an even bigger competitive advantage?

    What about colonies that hire non hutterite workers? Should they be exempt?

    Not opposed to some labor code changes as long as they apply to my operation and The hutterites equally.

    • John Fefchak

      An exemption, if permitted, would establish that there are two sets of labour codes,…… none for the brethren colony, one for those of a different society. Regardless of commitment ,that to me, IS a double standard.

      • kelly hofer

        Yes, and no. An understanding of how a colony works is helpful. Let me go into it.
        All wages, salaries from work on the colony are pooled into one account and the members don’t get paid in money, but rather they have a system that provides all material goods needed to live.
        So if someone is sick their entire life, a month or a day, everyone living on the colony contributes to keeping their standard of living just like everyone else’s. Everyone is taken care of no questions asked.
        So hutterites do in a way pay to Social insurance, it just stays within that colony.

        • james

          I understand but if a colony hires off colony workers to help out should OHS and workers comp apply to them.

          If a farm consisting of 3 or 4 families farming together (lots of those ) make an agreement to do some kind of self Insurance should they be exempt too?

          I farm workers are paid ingoods and services rather than monew should they be exempt

        • John Fefchak

          Most people pool their earnings into an account, and the three levels of government take from those accounts to provide many of the necessities that are also needed to live, within a certain standard. It’s referred to and called Income Tax. Usually there are no questions asked. If there is anything left, we are gratified and look forward to the next year.

        • Rose

          Interesting topic. Could you explain how health care works in the colony?

    • dodude

      Hutterites seem to have an advantage by the way they live, they’ve got something going for them. Do you really think they should be dragged down to other much less efficient competing companies by the government? that would kind of be like if the government would clip all the beavers’ tails so muskrats can compete with them.

    • Rose

      Is a colony a “union”? Is a “union” a “colony” ? Just thinking. Every body is “paying their dues”. Well not everybody. Those outside of a colony or a union are “free”.

  • jack

    I would say NO, otherwise non Hutterites are exempt too

  • Everett Duerksen

    The colony’s ability to self-insure is not an argument against legislation; there are others who could likely argue this based on future potential earnings. What this article has opened up a little more is the fact that hutterite colonies continue to be treated distinctly from any free enterprise system on account of their lifestyle. James made reference to that problem. If the current governing body was concerned with more equality across industries, they would review both the operational and tax advantages that colonies are reaping from today. Then Tait would have a lot more fun!

    • Martin Hofer

      So your worried about taxes not safety?

  • James

    Do you realize how many injuries/deaths come from colonies compared to a family owned and operated farm?

  • Angel

    Hutterite colonies need more education for their children . Sometimes having that is nothing bad ..

  • Martin Hofer

    It’s all about steel more money from someone else, If yours so worried about non hutterite workers, if they’re non covered under insurance don’t work for them, plain and simply. Just another bias issue against the hutteries

    • james

      No Bias issue against hutterites at the moment it could be argued that laws favor the hutterites, over non hutterite Farms if they get the ability to be exempt from having to follow the laws of the land that everyone else has to follow.

      they also get favorable treatment over small town manufactures who have to pay Comercial property taxes, and WCB for their employees while the non hutterite workers in hutterite shops are exempt?

      looks like hutterites have preferred treatment to me.

      • Martin Hofer

        Don’t need to worry about WCB on colonies, There is quite an amount of funds that are being paid for a worker who gets hurt in a colony, to get them back on an job, by the colony actually by the way. No need to double charge us.

        • james

          But a family Farm like mine which will currently does the exact same thing (pay for whatever the hurt worker needs to get them back on the job) has no choice but to pay I to WCB how fair is that?

          • Martin Hofer

            Why should you need WCB. Hey man this is a free country, leave the choice open and let each individual choose for themselves. Don’t make a big issue out of something when there is no need to. Every one should use there common sense and know that safety is one of the first in life. First is faith, then health, then family then safety. Now we will leave good enough alone.

  • ed

    We have no more CWB single desk, so all these social collective vehicles like workers comp. and medicare, or auto insurance should be banned. It’s the free market man!

  • Colleen