At a recent news conference in Edmonton, Premier Redford stated that she intends to keep her leadership campaign promise that farm workers will be covered by OHS legislation. According to a Calgary Herald report she said, “I’ve made a commitment. What we’re going to do is continue to do that work to ensure that we get everyone’s input, and when the time is right, we’ll do it.”
But therein lies the question — when and how? This issue has been studied and consulted into exhaustion over the past 10 years. Everyone’s position is well known and not about to change. What the stakeholders need to be consulted about is not “if” OHS will be implemented, but “how” they would like OHS standards applied and enforced for their respective sectors.
The government particularly needs to get on with finding ways and means to apply OHS to Hutterite Colonies, owner/operators and family members. The concern is that even though the premier has made a commitment on farm worker OHS, she may only approve a weak program to appease the industry and not repudiate her government’s Farm Safety Advisory Council recommendations.
The industry has been quiet about its opposition to mandatory OHS, but then there may be a factor beginning to unsettle its steadfast position. The large intensive sector of the industry has come to rely on the temporary foreign worker program for farm workers. That’s a federal program which is expected to be applied equally and fairly across the country. It’s been rumoured that some labour groups have brought this matter to the federal government’s attention. One could surmise that the federal program might be suspended in Alberta until the OHS question is resolved.