Liberal MLA David Swann on 18th Annual Farm Workers Awareness Week

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann made the following statement on the 18th Annual Farm Workers Awareness Week:

“For the 18th Annual Farm Worker’s Awareness Week I want to take a moment to recognize the incredible importance of Alberta’s agriculture industry. Not only is it a key part of Alberta’s economic engine, but also our province’s identity as well.

“At the core of that industry are the industrious farm workers who put food on tables in Alberta and across the world. Their vital contribution to society is undeniable.

“I am proud of the strides Alberta has taken to modernize and improve the health and safety and guarantee compensation for injury for paid farm workers and I am committed to continuing to push for further progress on the long-awaited regulations.

“I encourage all Albertans to take time this week to learn more about the contribution of farm workers in our province.”

MLA David Swann praises progress and calls for more action during Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

Edmonton, AB – March 14th, 2018: Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann made the following statement on Canadian Agricultural Safety Week:

“Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is a time of tremendous importance for Alberta and a special time for me, as well. For years, I pushed successive conservative governments to protect the basic rights of farm workers and bring Alberta’s standards in line with the rest of Canada.

“Despite serious errors in communication by the NDP Government, I was proud to support the protection and benefits the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act provides. This bill was a boon to both farm worker’s rights and access to markets for our agricultural products.

“While it is shameful Alberta took so long to provide farmworkers with the protections that are their fundamental right, we can be proud of the progress we have made. However, we cannot grow complacent and forget that there is still work to be done.

“While farmers and ranchers have received significant resources to help them adapt to Alberta’s improved legislation, many of the workers on the farms and ranches seem to have been left out of the equation.

“For this Canadian Agricultural Week I’m calling on this government to continue the progress they have made and make further efforts to support and assist farm and ranch workers in this transition to their new workplace standards.”

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan echoes Swann’s comments calling for the NDP Government to take action.

“As a lawyer and strong supporter of human rights I am passionate about the needs to protect Alberta farm workers.”

“The NDP Government has left these people in limbo for more than 2 years after approving the legislation in 2015 and now should move quickly to finally address their concerns”

“Farm workers deserve fair and equal treatment and should have the same benefits as other Alberta workers.”

Health and safety of farm and ranch workers must be NDP’s priority

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says the NDP need to ensure farm and ranch workers get further protections following today’s release of the technical working groups’ occupational health and safety reports.

“This must be about protecting the lives and livelihoods of farm and ranch workers and their families, not just the business concerns of the agricultural industry,” says Swann. “Changes need to be aimed at enhancing safety and equity for these marginalized workers.

“For example, there needs to be a service centre dedicated solely to farm and ranch workers to help them understand their rights and protections. Fear of reprisal is a big concern for the workers when it comes to reporting an injury or refusing an unsafe practice.”

Last spring, Swann criticized the NDP government when it exempted farm and ranch workers from mandatory rest periods and overtime in Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, which Swann sought to amend twice, but the NDP refused.

“The NDP chose politics over people when it denied farmers and ranchers the same basic rights and benefits as every other worker in Alberta,” says Swann. “It was a big step back for a party that is supposed to support labour rights.

“The technical working groups gave the NDP some degree of political cover, but further action is needed now, especially since conservative factions are eager to turn back the clocks on these issues.”

Swann has been a tireless advocate for farm and ranch workers’ rights and safety. Recently, he wrote to the Ministers of Labour and Agriculture and Forestry to improve labour rules, regulations and practices in Alberta’s agricultural sector.

“It took us decades to come this far,” says Swann. “We cannot stop or turn back now.

“Farm and ranch workers deserve more workplace protections, safety standards and inspections need to be applied consistently to all equipment, and agricultural injuries and deaths need to be investigated regardless of where they occur and who is involved.”

NDP reject overtime and rest periods for paid farm workers and ranchers

David Swann is shocked and disappointed by the NDP government’s repeated refusal to extend employment standards for overtime and rest periods to paid farm workers and ranchers.

“Giving paid farm workers and ranchers the same rights as every other employee in the province is fair and reasonable,” says Swann.  “Clearly, the government is gun shy from the fallout from Bill 6 and is not willing to do what is necessary to protect these workers.

“The NDP is hiding behind the Technical Working Groups as an excuse not to do the right thing.”

Swann proposed two amendments to Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, to remove exemption from the legislation for paid farm workers and ranchers, first for overtime, and, then, that an employer must provide each employee 30 minutes of rest for every five hours worked.

“This is a government that says it wants the bill to be fair and family-friendly,” says Swann. “It is anything but fair to deny all workers the same basic rights and benefits.”

CBC: Alberta farm workers should not get overtime pay, working group says

“Liberal Leader David Swann said he fears the NDP will back down on protecting farm workers.

“‘The big industrial agriculture operations that are used to having things their way will continue to fight against common-sense regulations … around employment standards,’ he said.”

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Medicine Hat News: Farmworkers need help in Bill 6 transition period

The Alberta government has made and continues to make efforts to work with farm and ranch owners to adopt Bill 6. However, its implementation continues to be stalled by the legacy of a century of “wild west” attitudes, and no guarantee of safe work standards or compensation for injury.

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Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann responds to CFIB’s Bill 6 Paperweight Award

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann argues the protections provided by Bill 6 outweigh the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s criticisms.

The CFIB recently awarded the bill a Paperweight Award for “outrageous regulatory headaches for small businesses,” arguing that the regulations were not written with the realities of farming in mind.

Swann replies that the protections provided to employers and workers by Bill 6 are paramount, and invites the CFIB to help ensure the bill’s smooth and effective implementation.

“Bill 6 benefits farmers as well as farm workers,” said Swann. “Workers’ Compensation offers no-fault coverage to employers, protecting them from liability in case of an accident. More importantly, Bill 6 gives basic legal protections to farm workers that have been lacking for almost a century.”

The CFIB sits on a technical working group consulting on the bill’s regulatory framework. Swann expects the organization to work to reduce difficulties for farmers, but to ultimately ensure workers continue to receive these vital protections.

“I encourage the CFIB to use its position on the government’s Technical Working Group to improve Bill 6’s implementation, creating a framework accessible to farmers and ranchers while still preserving the fundamental rights of their workers,” Swann concluded.