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Thursday, 20 September 2012 13:20

Gov’t needs to get this farmworkers’ situation resolved already

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Procrastination is a bad word when it comes to anyone who is supposed to be working hard, smartly and effectively.
The Government of Alberta is procrastination in action... errr ... in-action.

Eric Musekamp, president of the Farmworkers of Alberta has been fighting with a variety of provincial and even federal government officials, held discussions with big business owners, human rights and labour groups, unions, etc. for eight, long years.
He and partner Darlene Dunlop have criss-crossed the province, visited the legislature, handed out Farmworkers’ mugs and hats, written countless letters to the editor in a variety of newspapers, attended fundraising dinners, protest rallies and have talked and visited grieving families who have lost their loved ones in farming accidents.
They have caught the attention of the provincial Liberals and have supported the idea put forth by Dr. David Swann who called on “Pepsico-FritoLay to stop purchasing potatoes in Alberta until the provincial government regulates child labour in our agriculture industry.”
This controversial stance, plus all of their previous efforts, have been spurned by farmers who don’t like their ideas (probably due to the mitigating costs)in regards to giving Alberta farm workers and their families protection under the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as allowing them to get Workers Compensation — the only such province in Canada not to do so.
Now, he is furthering the cause by pushing for a stance on child labour in the agriculture industry.
Even some farm workers are afraid to support the Farmworkers Union publicly for fear they will lose their employment.
Whatever you think of their efforts or of Musekamp and Dunlop, themselves, the one thing you can honestly say is the government owes them a definitive answer. This idea of sending proposals, reviewing concerns, examining them blah... blah ... blah is frustrating for all involved, including government officials themselves.
A few years ago, the government weakly tried to placate the Farmworkers Union by saying if farmers and their workers were more educated on farm safety strategies, there would not be (m)any accidents.
However, if the government wants to get this resolved and fixed, just do something already.
Either tell Musekamp “no” and then explain succinctly why it will never happen or explain what he needs to do before they will create legislation and ultimately accept such a proposal. Or, tell him “yes” — come up with a plan and create some legislation.
With this putting off and delay all the government has done is given Musekamp time to gain more friends, more supporters and ultimately more determination to get something done.
It has also has created a lot of frustration.
When Alberta’s Human Services Minister David Hancock, a 15-year political veteran, gets into a heated verbal sparring match with Musekamp following the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Sept. 13, that is not good government etiquette or does it invoke confidence with the visuals. created.
Musekamp has had meetings with Hancock before, so it’s not like there’s a faceless, disgruntled voter who came to take random potshots at a government official. You may disagree with Musekamp’s approach or his views, but you can’t say he doesn’t know his material. He has a complete grasp of all such labour laws and rules and that could be frustrating to someone in office who has a different agenda.
If the Conservatives thought the Farmworkers Union was going away, they were sadly mistaken. If only they hadn't procrastinated eight years ago...
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor