Despite large protests calling on the province to delay or drop the legislation, the Alberta government passed Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, on Thursday.
The legislation passed third reading with 44-29 vote after government house leader Brian Mason invoked closure to limit debate.
With mixed messages coming from government and a lack of details, there’s been plenty of confusion and frustration surrounding the farm labour bill and the impact it will have on Alberta farms.
“There are still more questions than answers on the passing of Bill 6,” said Lee Markert, chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, in a joint release from Alberta’s crop commissions. “The next step is to compile the information and use clear language to try to explain how each pillar of this bill will affect those who work on farms across Alberta.”
The commissions are disappointed with the lack of consultation and communication around Bill 6, noted Kent Erickson, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.
“This really drives home the message that agriculture stakeholders must be properly consulted prior to the development of regulations and technical standards to ensure they protect farm workers while reflecting the unique nature of the farm sector,” he said.
Amendments to the bill, which clarified that Workers’ Compensation Board insurance requirements and Occupational Health and Safety standards will only apply to farms with one or more non-family waged workers, showed the legislation is “less focused on farm safety and more about farm labour,” say the groups.
“The key to creating a culture of farm safety is education – not legislation,” explained Mike Ammeter, Chair of the Alberta Barley Commission. “Alberta farmers are the biggest supporters of farm safety. We raise our families in this environment, care deeply about the safety of our employees, family and friends.”
According to the latest update on the government website, “detailed technical standards for OHS that recognize the unique work conditions of the agriculture sector will be developed in consultation with the farm and ranch industry over the next 18 to 24 months.” Changes to the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code will also be implemented after consulting with the industry.
“Going forward it is important that the crop commissions work together, providing farmer input into the regulations as they are developed,” noted Alberta Pulse Growers Chair Allison Ammeter.