Thursday, 09 March 2017 05:44

Input now sought on initial Bill 6 report: Bow Island office open March 11

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The provincial Liberal Caucus has helped fund a Farmworkers Service Centre in Bow Island. This Centre will have Centre Street storefront presence temporarily on weekends as input for the Employment Standards Technical Working Group is collected. Above Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann, injured  Farmworker Philippa Thomas and Eric Musekamp chat at Farmworkers Day 2014. The provincial Liberal Caucus has helped fund a Farmworkers Service Centre in Bow Island. This Centre will have Centre Street storefront presence temporarily on weekends as input for the Employment Standards Technical Working Group is collected. Above Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann, injured  Farmworker Philippa Thomas and Eric Musekamp chat at Farmworkers Day 2014. File photo

After a year of consultative meetings with Alberta farmers, livestock producers and agricultural related groups, the recommendations of the Employment Standards Technical Working Group were released earlier this week. 


The Working Group consisted of individuals from selected agricultural organizations, government and labour officials. They were asked to get outside input on amendments and additions to Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act which passed in the legislature in late December 2015 and became law Jan. 1. There were six working groups who had different focuses.
Bill 6 had numerous and vocal opponents so the government created the Employment Standards Technical Working Group and during last year met to get feedback on specific questions and concerns on various topics about workers compensation, Occupational Health and Safety Act, insurance, working hours, conditions, overtime and even the right for workers to form their own labour union.
No matter the results of the final report’s recommendations, anyone who works under a farm ranch or feedlot is covered under the WCB, except for unpaid family members and Hutterian families.
According to the government this means “that family members can continue to contribute to farming operations as they always have ... i.e. ... children doing chores or participating in 4-H ...  and neighbours can still volunteer to help each other out.” 
The Act doesn’t apply to recreational activities, such as hunting on farmland.
Eric Musekamp, head of the Farmworkers’ Union of Alberta, who has been fighting for health, safety and financial protection for injured farm workers for more than a decade, can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
His fight was to get agriculture workers in Alberta the same rights as those in the rest of Canada.
Musekamp liked most of the group’s recommendations.
He explains Bill 6 was important because prior to its implementation 8,000 farm workers had no insurance protection at all. He notes it’s good for employers and taxpayers too because now if a worker gets injured, the costs incurred for treatment gets paid through the WCB and not directly from the taxpayers’ dime under Alberta Health. The employer can also subsequently not be sued by the injured worker.
Musekamp adds private insurance doesn’t cover all of the aspect of workers’ injuries such as WCB does as they are “different products.”
He is still concerned about children and anything which may put them in situations of operating any heavy equipment. There is a recommendation that non-family children aged 12-13  — family members still have to do chores  —  can work up to 20 hours a week.
Another recommendation has anyone younger than the age of 16 getting paid 75 per cent of the minimum wage rate. Right now in Alberta it is $12.20 and in October 2017 will be $13.60.
With the release of the employment Standards Technical Working Group initial consultative report March 6 (to see the report go to the website at:  https:// www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch-consultations.aspx) Musekamp hopes everything can be finalized for those people involved.
Critics of Bill 6 shouldn’t complain, especially those who are concerned about a union uprising with farm workers.
“The government made it crystal clear they had the right to unionize,” explains Musekamp, noting any labour revolt is unlikely.
In a March 6 Marketwired story, the Alberta Federation of Labour called for the provincial government to push forward with “implementing strong basic rights, protections and regulations” for all agricultural workers.
“We are calling on the government to show continued leadership in standing up for some of Alberta’s most vulnerable workers by enacting Employment Standards that stand up for Alberta’s farm and ranch workers,” said Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour president.
“Given that the vast majority of agricultural workers in Alberta are not unionized, whatever regulations are put in place for the Employment Standards Code will serve as the basic floor of minimum rights for most Albertans working in the agriculture sector.”
McGowan didn’t like expanding paid non-family youth employment in the industry for 12- and 13-year-olds, adding new exemptions for greenhouses, and exemptions for family-members or more specifically, young family members who could still legally operate heavy duty machinery are okay.
People interested or impacted by the legislation will have until April 3 to make their thoughts known.
Through some funding from the Alberta Liberal Caucus and some private donations, Musekamp has opened up a storefront presence in Bow Island and has called it the Farmworker Service Centre.It is located at 603 Centre Street and open on weekends to garner any positive or negative feedback for the government. 
On March 11, they will be open from 10:30 a.m. to mid afternoon and Sunday they will be open from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If one can’t travel to Bow Island, visit the Farmworkers Union of Alberta page or phone toll-free 1-844-557-3743.
“Lovers or haters, we will get all feedback and comments and take them back to the government,” adds Musekamp.
Written comments can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or can also be sent to: Farm and Ranch TWG recommendations feedback, c/o Workplace Policy and Legislation, Alberta Labour, 7th Floor, 10808 - 99 Avenue, Edmonton, Alta., T5K O5G.

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Ryan Dahlman

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