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Alberta groups want say as province looks to improve farm worker safety

The only province to exclude farmers from employment standards laws

Agriculture groups say they want to be at the table as Alberta's new NDP government moves to include farm and ranch workers under provincial occupational health and safety rules. Alberta is the only province that excludes farm employees from workers' compensation coverage and employment standards laws. The farmer-elected agriculture groups include the Alberta barley, canola, pulse and wheat commissions. Some groups met with government officials on June 29, but want to ensure their views are included in coming months before final decisions on changes are made. Rob Davies, general manager of Alberta Barley, said groups have heard some new rules will be developed by 2017, but some people believe the government wants to move more quickly. "To us, it makes the most sense that we would be the ones who are discussing with government as these rule changes are made,'' he said Tuesday. "We are more than willing to be actively engaged on this file and to work with the government on behalf of the farmers that we represent to make sure that what we do come up with makes as much sense as it can.'' Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson said the government wants to hear more from farmers and will release information about its plans in the late fall. She declined to give any details or when any changes would be rolled out. "It is really important for us to have discussions with the industry and anyone who is involved in that sector to make sure we understand,'' she said. "This is something we have been concerned about for some time before we were in government that a particular sector is exempt from occupational health and safety. We want to make sure that all workers are safe in Alberta.'' Allison Ammeter, chairwoman of the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, said the groups believe education and training should be the focus of any new safety program. Lee Markert, chairman of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, said accident and farm fatality investigations are needed to collect all possible information for on-farm education and training. But he said producers need time to consider how new safety measures could affect farm operations. Alberta Agriculture estimates there are about 60,000 primary agricultural workers in the province.

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