Ag minister clarifies farm workers act

The Alberta government believes all workers should be safe, including those who work on farms and ranches, and I know Albertans feel the same.

That’s why government created the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.

It is intended to bring the protection and compensation of waged, non-family farm and ranch workers in line with what is already extended to other workers in Alberta and similar to what’s in place in other provinces, where family farms continue to thrive.

However, there are still significant misconceptions about what this legislation does, and does not do, for Alberta farms and ranches.

I want to make clear that our government supports the Alberta 4-H program and the important skills and values it instils in members and rural communities.

Farm kids in Alberta will continue to make their communities proud in their local 4-H program, just as they do in every other province.

I also want to make it clear that the changes that result from these consultations will not in any way affect farm family members or anyone else who was exempted from the legislation when it was passed in the Alberta legislature in December.

As we move forward with our consultation process, we want to ensure that Albertans have a voice in changes that could affect them. The next phase of consultations with the agriculture sector begins this spring.

The process will include establishing working groups of stakeholders and experts that will make recommendations on how em-ployment standards, occupational health and safety and labour relations requirements should be applied.

These technical working groups will provide an opportunity for a broad and diverse range of voices from the farming and ranching sector to help us get this right, while at the same time ensuring paid workers come home safely at the end of each day.

Producers who are members of agricultural commissions and marketing boards can also provide their input and feedback through their organizations, and all Albertans will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft regulations that come forward as a result of the work done by the technical working groups.

We plan to have the initial working group meetings in early March before taking a break during the busy spring season to allow farmers and ranchers time to get their work done.

The working group meetings will resume in June and July.

We know we can make workplaces safer. We’ve seen the rates of farm fatalities and serious injuries go down when laws to protect farm and ranch employees were introduced in other jurisdictions. Legislation can work, and we are asking for your help in making it work.

For more information on farm and ranch legislation and for the latest updates, visit www.farmandranch.alberta.ca.

Oneil Carlier is Alberta’s agriculture minister.

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