Logo tl Pangkalahatang Mag-abuloy

Ang isang online na mapagkukunan para sa mga karapatan sa network ng mga manggagawa (im) migrante

PangkalahatangBaguhin

Dokumento detalye

 

I-print at i-save

Dyaryo artikulo

Farm safety issue should be tilled the Alberta way

Petsa

2010-08-17

May-akda

Will Verboven

Buod

If there is one issue that seems to drag on forever it is the Alberta
government's reluctance -- better yet pigheadedness -- to address farm
worker safety and workplace rules. No amount of shame, human misery or
common sense seems to be enough to move government politicians and
bureaucrats to do the right thing.

Headline

Calgary Herald

Buong Teksto

If there is one issue that seems to drag on forever it is the Alberta
government's reluctance -- better yet pigheadedness -- to address farm
worker safety and workplace rules. No amount of shame, human misery or
common sense seems to be enough to move government politicians and
bureaucrats to do the right thing.

One might surmise that the overwhelming impetus for the government to
face reality is that other provincial governments have mandatory farm
worker health and safety legislation in place -- some of them for
decades. Most reasonable people would see a message in that precedent
-- but then those governments must all be wrong if one is to believe
the position of the Alberta government on the issue. Perhaps our
recalcitrant government needs to hire consultants to ascertain why
those other governments are all wrong and they are right. One needs to
remind the Alberta government that the agriculture industries of the
other provinces did not collapse when farm worker legislation was
implemented.

Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden has taken a step forward -- in
conjunction with the Employment Minister, they have initiated
consultations on the issue. That's the least they could do considering
that Judge Peter Barley, in a farm fatality inquiry in January of
2009, stated that he could find no logical explanation as to why farm
workers are not covered by the same workplace legislation as non-farm
workers.

Now we hear rumours that rather than provide Judge Barley with a
logical explanation for the exemption (an impossibility in my view),
the ministers' consultants and bureaucrats are trying to find a way to
dodge the issue again. It seems the government may be proposing to set
up a provincial farm safety organization designed to provide education
and training to the agriculture industry. To get feedback on the idea,
consultants were hired to ascertain the views of agriculture
organizations and agri-business.

Well there is no problem with more safety education and training,
although existing safety organizations and agriculture department
staff are already doing a credible job in that area. I can't help but
suspect that the proposal may result in the creation of another
government agency similar to the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, a
bureaucratic boondoggle that replaced already existing government
services, but I digress.

I expect any consultant's report on the issue would become instantly
suspect. They would have known the government's view, ideology and
history on the topic. Consultants would also have consulted mostly
with organizations and businesses opposed to any mandatory legislation
that would increase their costs. Farm workers are powerless in this
province, hence their perspective is easily ignored.

The outcome of the consultations would be predictable -- that being
that a provincial farm safety organization is the answer, with
legislation as an unnecessary last resort. Presto -- the issue can be
dodged and put off for years to come, the political temptation would
be irresistible.

But any geniuses contemplating such political expediency need to be
reminded that it's all been done before next door in B.C. Years ago, a
provincially funded farm safety organization was operated under the
auspices of the former B.C. Federation of Agriculture. It was
successful, but ultimately it was not the total answer. The B.C.
government still found it necessary to implement mandatory farm worker
legislation. I would suggest that the Alberta government resist
political temptation and not repeat history.

One ponders that with so much common sense and precedent facing the
issue why does the government appear so obstinate and seemingly
duplicitous. Those of us who observe the scheming world of agriculture
politics in Alberta suspect that there has to be more to the story.
That suspicion would lead right to Premier Ed Stelmach, a farmer and a
former minister of agriculture with likely views on the topic. No
present minister of agriculture who values his future in the cabinet
would ignore those views. One might also suspect the crafty hand of
the powerful cattle feedlot operators who have shown their political
power on other issues through what seems like a direct pipeline into
the Premier's office.

There is some irony in this whole issue, most of the large-scale
commercial agriculture operations in Alberta that are opposed to farm
worker legislation already use private insurance to cover their
workplace liability. That gets them off the hook, but it's a legal
nightmare for workers if they try to challenge any claims. That
approach has proven not to work in other sectors of the industrial
economy and it's not working in the agriculture sector.

The ministers and their bureaucrats should not be engaging in what
seems a devious exercise to dodge and delay what is an accepted
practice in other provinces and within other sectors of the provincial
economy. Instead they should be seeking ways to not only implement
farm worker health and safety legislation, but to make it the best,
fairest and most inclusive in the country. That should be the Alberta
way!

Pang-ekonomiyang sektor

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Mga Uri ng Nilalaman

Policy analysis

Target na mga grupo

Pampublikong Kamalayan

Geographical kaugnayan

Alberta

Wika

Ingles