UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

August 23, 2005 15:11 ET

End the Drought! Legal Protection for Farm Workers Now!

Alberta Lags Behind Other Provinces in Protecting Farm Workers Attention: Agriculture Editor, City Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor CALGARY, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 23, 2005) - The Alberta Federation of Labour (the AFL) has announced a campaign to pressure the Alberta government to extend to farm workers the same basic employment protections now provided to other Alberta workers.

"We are launching a strategy that proclaims 'End the Drought!' to bring basic protections to farm workers," said AFL President Gil McGowan. "We hope to persuade the government to follow the lead of other provinces and protect farm workers."

"In Alberta, if you work on a farm, you work in an environment with almost no protections. Nothing governs the hours of work, rate of pay or working conditions," said McGowan. "You can't refuse unsafe work, and you can't get WCB if you are hurt. Farm workers are denied the basic protections all other Alberta workers take for granted."

"And looking across the country, Alberta is again at the back of the pack. Alberta offers the worst level of protection for farm workers in the country.We are the only province that has not committed to including farm workers in health and safety legislation. Things on the farm are different today. Huge hog barns and corporate farms are replacing small family farms. Large operators employ dozens of workers. Farming has changed. So should the law."

McGowan also noted that the government continues to ignore the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that guarantees farm workers the right to organize unions.

"A farm worker's life is about hard work and a constant fear of getting fired or cheated. Speak out and you get blackballed," says Eric Musekamp, President of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta (FUA). "We need to 'End the Drought' by extending legal protections to make our agricultural workplaces safe and more fair."

The 'End the Drought' campaign was launched August 20th, to coincide with the newly created Alberta Farm Worker Day. The FUA called for August 20 to be Alberta Farm Worker Day to highlight the conditions agricultural workers experience. August 20, 1999 was the day a Taber-area farm worker was killed by his employer for overturning a water truck into a ditch.

UFCW Canada agricultural worker coordinator, Stan Raper, was also at the August 20th launch. His union has led the fight in Ontario for farm workers. "In Ontario, our Charter challenges brought about political change, including a recently announced commitment by the Ontario government to bring farm workers under the protection of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We hope it doesn't take that much in Alberta for the government to see that farm workers deserve basic legal protections, just like every other worker," says Raper.

According to UFCW Canada's national director, Michael J. Fraser, "UFCW Canada will continue the fight for basic workplace rights and protections for all Canadian agricultural workers and we join in solidarity with both the FUA and AFL in their new campaign."

The Alberta Federation of Labour intends to make protection for farm workers a key issue over the coming months. The first phase of the strategy includes:

• Distributing a leaflet calling on Albertans to pressure the government
• Town hall meetings in rural communities
• Lobbying Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal
• Asking Albertans to contact their local MLA
• Highlighting the issue in upcoming legislation reviews

Future actions will be determined as the campaign unfolds.

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For more information, contact:

Gil McGowan, President
Alberta Federation of Labour (800) 661-3995

Stan Raper, Coordinator
UFCW Canada (416) 675-1104 /For further information: The UFCW Canada 2004 National Report on the Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada is available in PDF format. Go to ufcw.ca/publications_main.cgi and you can find the report under the "Organizing Agricultural Workers Publications" menu, along with other articles about the challenges faced by agricultural workers in Canada./ IN: AGRICULTURE, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Stan Raper, UFCW CANADA
    Primary Phone: 416-675-1104 ext. 232
    Secondary Phone: 416-333-2225
    E-mail: sraper@ufcw.ca