The frustration and confusion for many famers surrounding Alberta’s Bill 6 will be laid to rest as Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen will be repealing the Bill, and replacing it with the Farm Freedom and Safety Act (FFSA).
Over the past few months, the provincial government led 25 consultations with farmers and ranchers, to hear their feedback on farm safety. A survey over summer also received 1,219 responses in regards to what Alberta farmers and ranchers wanted for change.
Main feedback included the need for:
- clear and simple guidelines that reflect farmers/ranchers work hours;
- a reduction of unnecessary reporting and documentation;
- education over legislation;
- choice of provider for workplace insurance;
- limited labour relations to minimize risks to crops and livestock from job actions such as strikes, and,
- the inclusion of greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom and sod farms as farm and ranch operations.
The FFSA was tabled this afternoon in the legislature.
Big changes for small employers
In Alberta, there’s roughly 41,000 farms, and approximately three in four of those farms are considered to be a “small employer” as defined by Alberta Agriculture. Farms and ranches who operate with five employees or less (that doesn’t include family members or those who have worked for less than six months) will be exempt from all employment standard rules along with the requirement to have workplace insurance.
This move was made due to feedback from those in agriculture who were frustrated by Bill 6 in having to have mandatory WCB coverage.
However, for those with large farms (those with six or more workers) will still have the option to have either private insurance or to get WCB coverage. Regardless of what they pick, it must cover death, dismemberment and disability according to the Act.
When it comes to greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom and sod farms they will be included as farm and ranch operations under employment standards. Which means they will get the same benefits including family member and small employer exemption, exempt from overtime, hours of work and youth rules, general holiday pay at 4.2 per cent, and four days of rest for every 28 days of work.
The FFSA will also prevent farm and ranch employees from unionizing. The right to unionize was introduced back in May of 2017; however since then, Minister Dreesehen says there hasn’t been one application for it.
As far as the $6 million introduced back in October of last year for work-safe funding goes, “it remains under review as part of the our work to align spending with government priorities.”