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Newspaper article

Date set for ag worker labour law hearing




Susan Mann


Union wants farm workers included under Labour Relations Act.

Newspaper title

Better Farming

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The Supreme Court of Canada has tentatively set Dec. 17 as the date to hear arguments concerning Ontario farm workers’ rights to bargain collectively.

Stan Raper, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, says they’re happy the court has agreed to accept submissions on two questions. The Union will argue Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act is unconstitutional because it prohibits collective bargaining and that impinges on farm workers’ rights to associate.

Raper says a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2007 involving hospital workers in British Columbia made it clear that the ‘freedom to associate’ section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes the ability to bargain collectively.

The other question centres on people’s right to equality under the law. “No individual should be treated differently based on a number of factors,” such as sex or gender, he notes. The Union is arguing this should also include occupation and Ontario’s farm workers shouldn’t be excluded from the province’s Labour Relations Act just because of their job.

Ontario’s Attorney General is defending the Act. Sherry Persaud, spokesperson for Ontario Agriculture Minister Leona Drombowsky, says since the case is before the courts “it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

As an intervener, the agricultural industry’s Labour Issues Coordinating Committee will be arguing “the same old thing about the uniqueness of agriculture and all that kind of stuff,” says chair Ken Forth. “It’s the same old story from 20 years ago. Nothing’s changed.”

Raper says the hearing is expected to take one day and it’ll be two to six months for the decision to be released. “We anticipate a strong ruling with some direct orders for (Premier Dalton McGuinty) to get off the pot and move this piece finally.”

Ultimately the Union wants Ontario to include farm workers in the provincial Labour Relations Act with the right to bargain collectively and strike. It doesn’t want another separate labour act just for farm workers.


Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

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Policy analysis

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Public awareness

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