Farm workers not really safe on the jobsite

Agricultural Safety Week 2013 will no doubt see some celebrations by the government

Agricultural Safety Week 2013 will no doubt see some celebrations by the government, but this premier’s promise to address the unjust and unsafe working conditions for paid farm workers, including children, remains another promise unfulfilled.

Ironically, Alberta’s farm animals will celebrate 30 years of legislated health and safety standards, the strictest Farm Animal Care legislation in North America. For example, it’s illegal to carry farm animals in an open pickup truck in Alberta, but farm workers? Not a problem!

Politically-motivated exemptions for industrial farming operations for Occupational Health and Safety, Workers’ Compensation and Child Labour legislation are appalling to conscious Albertans, as they should be. This discrimination leaves workers and their families at peril, and transfers, according to the most recent Alberta statistics, $374 million for farm injuries over the past 20 years onto the health-care budget, instead of costs being borne by the agriculture industry through WCB, as is mandatory for all other industrial operations.

Now, there’s the much-touted Social Policy Framework from a minister who formerly, as child and family services minister and health minister, took no action on unregulated child farm-workers, safety standards on agricultural operations and mandatory compensation for farmworkers injured on the job. His glossy brochure calls for all Albertans to be “safe, healthy, secure and resilient” — unless you’re a paid farm worker.

Small wonder this government and this framework are viewed by most Albertans as all about political spin. Clearly doing the right thing comes second to being politically expedient. Agricultural workers, including children, deserve the same rights as every other worker.

Agriculture Safety Week? Only the farm animals have anything to celebrate this week.

Dr. David Swann,

Alberta Liberal Human Services Critic