EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour is criticizing the provincial government for no longer reporting farm fatalities.
The union says the move is an example of how “agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta.”
“This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem – Alberta’s deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province,” union spokeswoman Nancy Furlong said in a release Monday.
“It’s particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents.”
The union says the province is the only one where farm workers aren’t covered by occupational health and safety laws. It says they are also excluded from legislation on hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays and vacation pay.
A judicial inquiry in 2008 into the death of worker Kevin Chandler in a farm accident near High River, Alta., recommended the inclusion of farm labourers in laws ensuring workplace protections.
“It is the government’s duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries. Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents,” said Furlong.
The union says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
No one in the Agriculture Department was available to comment.
The NDP’s agriculture critic used a stop in Lethbridge, Alta., to blast the government for what he called inaction on workplace safety for farm workers.
David Eggen said it’s disturbing that the lives of Alberta labourers on the land appear to mean so little to the government.
“It’s very dangerous worker and farm workers are not being protected with the basic rights that other workers have here in Alberta,” Eggen said.
“They’re far behind the rest of Canadian farm workers and now suddenly (Premier Alison) Redford makes the page go dark on the statistics that we can use to track farm workers here in the province.”
Liberal critic David Swann said there are an average of 30 farm deaths a year over the last 20 years.
“Despite the number of injuries and deaths amongst farm workers … the government has undertaken no action to require improved health and safety conditions surrounding paid agriculture employees,” he said in a release.
- With files from CJOC