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Thursday, 27 October 2011 08:21

Premier a fan of Farmworkers’ Union

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By Jamie Woodford
Although there may be some discontent among Gary Mar supporters, one group is certainly pleased Alison Redford is Alberta’s newest premier.
The Farmworkers’ Union of Alberta, which officially endorsed Redford’s campaign, has been pushing for years to earn farmers and farmworkers the same labour rights and protection as other workers in Alberta.

Union president Eric Musekamp said with Redford in power, he’s sure the union won’t have to push for much longer.

“I’m the most optimistic I’ve been in 10 years.”

He said he spoke with Redford at her campaign headquarters.

“I was with her just the other day, just before she got elected, and she has pledged to me that she will work with us to begin the process of emancipating farmworkers,” he said.

Although there is no official plan yet, Musekamp isn’t wasting any time to get the ball rolling.

“(Redford) is going to put me in contact with some of her people ... they have all pledged to work with the farmworkers’ union and so I’m actually sending word out as we speak, by email, to her and her people to try and connect up.”

Musekamp said he, too, made a promise to Redford.

“I’ve pledged to offer her my every assistance and co-operation to bring a plan forward without too much backlash from the opposition side of things,” he said. “We have a specific, proven plan that we put forward that we’ve adopted from British Columbia.”

He added since B.C. began covering farmworkers under its Occupational Health and Safety regulations, the province has significantly reduced its death/injury rate.

“We need to upgrade the regulations and the legislation (in Alberta),” he said.

The union has already put forward a detailed 17-page OHS plan, and will likely bring it up again now that Redford has replaced the current Minister of Employment and Immigration Thomas Lukaszuk.

In the meantime, Musekamp said he will “vigorously advocate” to meet with Redford and her new team to put a plan in place as soon as possible.

“We’re going to ask her to as quickly as humanly possible to extend workers’ compensation protection to the (farm) workers. That’s the first immediate step,” he said.

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