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Report/Press release

Dear Premier Stelmach

Date

2009-02-03

Authors

Agriculture Workers Alliance

Abstract

Dear Premier Stelmach:
As the National President of UFCW Canada – the union that has long advocated on behalf of Canada’s agriculture workers – I am writing to express my concern, and frustration, over your government’s inaction with regard to Justice Peter Barley’s recommendations into the work-related death of Kevan John Chandler.

Series title

AWA E-News

Responsible institution

Agriculture Workers Alliance

Full text

February 3, 2009

The Honourable Ed Stelmach
Premier of Alberta
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800 - 97th Avenue
Edmonton AB T5K 2B6

Dear Premier Stelmach:
As the National President of UFCW Canada – the union that has long advocated on behalf of Canada’s agriculture workers – I am writing to express my concern, and frustration, over your government’s inaction with regard to Justice Peter Barley’s recommendations into the work-related death of Kevan John Chandler.

On June 18, 2006, Mr. Chandler got up, had a coffee with his wife, kissed his kids goodbye, drove to work, and never came home again. While doing his job in a silo at Tongue Creek Feeders near High River, Alberta, Kevan was killed after being suffocated by several tons of falling grain. His death is another terrible example of how dangerous one of Canada’s most important industries is, and it is yet another tragic reason why your government needs to start respecting the rights of agriculture workers.

Unlike Hector Goudreau, your government’s labour minister, I believe that the best way to protect people at work is to make sure that Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation is substantive, comprehensive and applicable to all workers equally.

Mr. Goudreau says that excluding farm workers from OHS legislation has little or no bearing on the number of industry fatalities. But the facts just don’t support his position. Eighteen agriculture workers were killed on the job in Alberta in 2000, but during that same year in B.C. – where farm workers exercise the same rights and protections of other workers – three farm workers lost their lives in work-related accidents. In 2005, Alberta had more farm worker deaths than Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined – the latter two provinces are both jurisdictions where the health and safety rights of agriculture workers are entrenched in law.

Despite Alberta’s inordinate number of farm worker fatalities, your government claims that its investment in farm safety education attests to its commitment to death and injury prevention, but it is difficult for me to see how three instructors can effectively teach 50,000 food providers, and how a poorly administered public awareness program is a suitable replacement for legislated protections.
Mr. Premier, how many farm workers have to die before your government starts taking the safety of farm workers seriously? As the people who make one of Canada’s most important industries possible, shouldn’t food workers have the same rights and protections as other workers? It is time for your government to join the national consensus by becoming the ninth province to respect the health and safety rights of agriculture workers.

As leader of the largest private-sector union in Canada, and on behalf of 35,000-plus food workers in Alberta, I urge you to take a proactive role in preventing future industry deaths by immediately accepting and implementing the recommendations put forward by Justice Barlay’s inquiry.

Sincerely,

Wayne E. Hanley
National President, UFCW Canada

WEH:DJ/sw

cc: Hon. Hector Goudreau, Minister of Employment and Immigration
Hon. George Groeneveld, Minister of Agriculture and Food
Ken Georgetti, President, Canadian Labour Congress
Gill McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour

Links

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Regulation domains

Labour standards and Health and safety at work

Geographical focuses

Alberta

Languages

French, English, and Spanish