Moving forward with Bill 6

It’s been a tumultuous time in the Alberta agriculture industry. With the introduction of Bill 6, the province has seen vigorous debate and passionate arguments. In a handful of very regrettable instances, a deplorable threat of violence has been made.

Many farmers and ranchers have voiced their frustration over the contents and process of Bill 6. While we certainly understand their frustration, we encourage all stakeholders to make their voices heard in a respectful and productive manner.

AFA wants to make one thing very clear: advocating violence contributes nothing to a constructive debate and brings no credit to our industry.

So where are we today? Bill 6 passed third reading in the legislature on December 10 and received Royal Assent on December 11. The new farm labour legislation will make Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage and basic Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards mandatory for paid, non-family, farm workers. OHS technical standards and changes to the Employment Standards Code, while part of the same bill, are earmarked by the government for more work and consultation.

AFA’s position on Bill 6 is posted on our website. We’ve passed these views along to Oneil Carlier, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister, and Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour. We will meet with these Ministers on January 12, 2016 to discuss the WCB and OHS changes and review the steps forward.

We have received calls to ask if AFA knows more about the details and process of this legislation going forward. We hope to know more once we have met with the Ministers. What we do know is that The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act makes WCB mandatory for farmers and ranchers with paid, non-family workers beginning January 1, 2016. Producers will have until April 30, 2016 to register with WCB, as indicated here on the Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour website.

According to the same website, OHS basic safety standards will also be effective on January 1, 2016 for paid, non-family workers. More consultation will occur for the OHS detailed technical standards, the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. That is certainly something we will continue to push for.

So, what can farmers and ranchers do? Here are our suggestions:

  • watch for notices of the Government’s consultation process – they have indicated this will take place over the next 18 to 24 months
  • subscribe to this blog, or follow AFA on Twitter; as details become available, we will be spreading the word
  • become an AFA member, attend the AFA Annual General Meeting January 20-22, 2016 in Red Deer and be part of creating the resolutions that will be our top policy priorities for 2016.

“Becoming an AFA member creates a stronger voice for our agricultural industry,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “This is one of the benefits of our organization. Our mandate is to take what we hear from all producers and present a unified voice when provincial or national policy is being discussed and written.”