Wednesday, 25 May 2016 14:30

Working groups representing vast areas of expertise selected for farm and ranch consultations in Alberta

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Six working groups have been created to look at various areas of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation and recommend how employment standards, OHS and labour relations requirements should be applied under the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act which came into effect earlier this year.

Employees on Alberta farm and ranch operations now have access to Workers Compensation with the passing of that Act, but the rest of the requirements won’t be set until at the earliest the end of the year, after these working groups, and the public have had their say.
“We are working to ensure the right balance between safety (and the needs of producers),” said Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in a teleconference May 20. “Farming is more than a job, it’s a way of life, and this government recognizes that.”
Six technical working groups will begin meeting in June. They will look at the Employment Standards Code; Labour Relations Code; OHS review of existing requirements and exceptions; OHS: Best practices for agriculture and OHS: Education, training and certification.
The members represent a wide variety of voices from producers to health officials as well as lawyers and health and safety specialists.
Hutterite colonies have voices at the table and about 23 of the committee members represent the Alberta Agriculture Farm and Ranch Safety Coalition or AgCoalition as it is known, formed specifically in response to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
“There will be other opportunities for public feedback,” explained Carlier.
Producers who sit on boards and commissions in the province will be able to share their thoughts and concerns through those organizations.
The public will also have a chance to comment on the draft regulations brought forward as a result of the work done by the technical working groups.
“We have and we will continue to take all the time necessary to get this right,” Carlier said, adding there are no firm deadlines for when recommendations need to be completed, but Carlier is hopeful there could be something by the end of the year.
Each working group is chaired by an independent and impartial individual with demonstrated mediation, consensus and board governance experience. Members were selected from a process that included nearly 250 submissions from the agricultural sector, labour groups and technical experts.
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For now Carlier said it is important for farmers and ranchers in the province to know their voices are being heard and that basic Occupational Health and Safety rules are in place for their employees.
“... (they need to) continue to do the good work they are doing now for themselves and their workers.”
More information is available on the Farm and Ranch Workplace Legislation website :
Members on the committees from Southern Alberta include:
Employment Standards Code
• Gordon Tait, Lethbridge, partner Meyers Norris Penny LLP (representative of Hutterian Brethren).
Labour Relations Code
• Martin van Diemen, Picture Butte, producer (dairy, poultry and mixed crops), director with Alberta Milk and Alberta Chicken Producers;
• Terence Hochstein, Taber, executive director, Potato Growers of Alberta;
• Grace Strom, High River, Alberta Beekeepers’ Commission, producer;
• Leanne Chahley, Lethbridge, lawyer.
OHS: Review of existing requirements and exceptions (two groups)
Technical Working Group Four
• Justin Knol, Lethbridge, mixed grain and speciality seed worker;
• Erna Ference, Black Diamond, Alberta Chicken Producer;
• Rients Palsma, Duchess, dairy farmer, former farm worker and agricultural instructor;
• Russel Pickett, Bassano, producer (cattle, hay, and irrigated cereals);
• Vincent Geerligs, Welling, farm employee, mixed crops and feedlot.
OHS: Best practices for agriculture
• John Waldner, Foremost, manager at Kingslake Hutterite Colony;
• Miranda These, Tilley, worker (safety coordinator).
OHS: Education, training and certification
• Tim van der Hoek, Vauxhall, pulse producer, irrigation;
• Eric Musekamp, Bow Island, Farm Workers Union of Alberta.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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