There is so much in the news and on social media lately about the proposed changes to the Alberta government’s Bill 6 – The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act – that it’s hard to separate facts from opinions and emotions. I was hesitant about writing this post and wading into the discussion, but felt it was important to provide my perspective both as an egg farmer and current chair for Egg Farmers of Alberta.
It seems that farm safety is the newest hot topic and sweeping changes are coming overnight. Television, radio and social media are full of articles and videos predicting the end of family farms. There are protests happening on the steps of the Alberta Legislature. People are riled up, worried and scared. That isn’t good. What is good is that people are wanting more information, but what information is already out there has been inconsistent and confusing. For those of you who want to know more about the issue, check out this link: http://work.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch.html
Currently, Alberta is exempt from OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) legislation and there is no requirement for farms to carry any type of insurance for their employees. There are also exemptions for farming regarding employment standards and labour relations. It may seem that this is strictly an NDP government-led initiative, but the previous Conservative government had been working with representatives from many sectors of agriculture on this issue for almost two years. I’ve been to several of these meetings. As an industry representative, I want to be sure that the egg industry remains sustainable for future generations. That includes making sure that all farm workers are treated fairly and that every farm is a safe working environment. I believe that we need education and training, and at EFA we are working on getting all egg farmers to have Job Task Hazard Assessments in place that are realistic and applicable to their unique farm.
I support legislation that will make farm fatalities and serious accidents subject to investigation. We need to learn from these investigations and create a safer environment. How children will be affected is a big issue and one I’d like to know more about. My own children grew up accompanying me, their dad and grandparents around the farm, helping out during busy times, and earning spending money as they grew older. I’m a 4-H’er and firmly believe in their motto “Learn to Do by Doing”. I want to ensure that opportunity exists for all farm children out there, regardless of the size of their farm.
I’m also concerned about what will happen to the Hutterite colonies. In their culture, all the children help out from quite young, having more responsibilities as they get older. The colony members are not employees and WCB premiums could be exorbitant for them.
Part of the concern that I’m hearing from egg farmers, but also other farming friends, is that there hasn’t been enough public consultation. Yes, the government is having meetings to hear the views of farmers, but the locations and venues are not able to accommodate all those people interested in attending. The government has committed to listening and I, for one, will be providing input on how it affects my farm, my family and my industry. I encourage you to find out more and participate in the process.
The link to complete the survey: http://work.alberta.ca/farmandranch-survey
The link to email your views to the government: [email protected]