WHEREAS the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act received Royal Assent on December 11, 2015; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta subsequently established technical working groups to provide recommendations on how employment standards, occupational health and safety, and labour relations should be applied to the agriculture sector, with the intent of influencing the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act; and
WHEREAS the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act received Royal Assent on June 7, 2017; and
WHEREAS it is generally understood that both acts and any associated regulations will impact the agricultural industry; and
WHEREAS a detailed understanding of these impacts, and any associated changes required of agricultural producers and stakeholders is necessary to ensure compliance given the scope of the new legislation; and
WHEREAS without a thourough understanding of farmworker legislation, agriculture producers and workers are challenged to understand how their businesses, families, and livelihoods are impacted; and
WHEREAS agriculture is an integral part of Alberta’s economy and Albertans’ way of life and misinformation and lack of certainty regarding legislative requirements make it challenging to make informed business decisions;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta develop and implement a communications plan to advise Alberta’s agriculture sector of actual and intended changes regarding workplace legislation, with the outcome of establishing increased awareness and effective change management.
Sturgeon County remains committed to working with the Government of Alberta to maintain and grow Alberta’s agriculture sector. Sturgeon County supports the AAMDC’s position statement: that the AAMDC recognizes that the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act serves an important purpose in ensuring agricultural workers have the same rights and protections as other workers in Alberta, and it is important that this legislation and associated regulations do not unfairly compromise the ability of agricultural producers to operate sustainably.
While the Government of Alberta’s public consultation processes regarding this Act, as well as the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act, were well-intentioned, there appears to be a knowledge gap within the agricultural community as to impacts and next steps required of agricultural producers, as this sentiment was expressed to Sturgeon County Council by our Agricultural Service Board. While this is an example within a Sturgeon County context, we believe this experience is likely common amongst other counties and municipal districts across Alberta.
Therefore, the intent of this resolution is that increased awareness and certainty be achieved amongst Alberta’s agricultural community regarding any required operational changes as result of new legislation, and that this be done by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, by “closing the loop” with Alberta’s agricultural community through a communications plan.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has no comments on this resolution as Alberta Labour is leading the communication rollout for farm workplace legislation.
Alberta Labour is supportive of the main principles in Resolution 8-17F in keeping farm and ranch stakeholders informed and aware of changes related to occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation.
It is a priority for our government that our stakeholders have time to understand and engage with the reports generated by the Technical Working Groups (TWGs). Consultations conducted with stakeholders in the agricultural community through TWGs included both employer and employee representatives and was a first step in involving agriculture producers and workers who may be challenged to understand how their businesses, families, and livelihoods may be affected by this legislation. The reports, including an easy-to-read summary document of the recommendations, are available at www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch.aspx.
We continue to ensure that farmers and ranchers have ample time and support to provide their feedback on the reports of the TWGs. To further that goal, we extended the deadline for stakeholders to provide feedback to February 28, 2017.
If the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) or any constituent members would like assistance in understanding the TWG recommendations, current OHS Code requirements, or further explanation of the consultation process, please contact AL through the dedicated farm and ranch email at firstname.lastname@example.org or the OHS Contact Centre at 1 866-415-8690.
We have heard the AAMDC’s request and will continue to communicate and work with the agricultural sector as we move forward to ensure they are aware of our government’s direction, and to offer assistance in updating their members. In regard to Employment Standards, we have developed educational resources specific to the farm and ranch sector, including posters and brochures, online webinars and extensive information on the government’s website.
We are working closely with stakeholder representatives to share both the employment standards and OHS information resources with farmers and ranchers in Alberta. We will continue to listen to concerns raised, communicate with stakeholders, and provide certainty and clarity as we maintain safe, fair, and healthy workplaces in our province.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that over the past two years, information on changes to farm and ranch workplace legislation, as well as opportunities for stakeholder input into such changes, have occurred through multiple means and have been based on an intent to raise both awareness and understanding of the changes among employers and employees in the farm and ranch sector.
While the response demonstrates the range of information-sharing that has occurred, it does not reference a current or future communications plan for ensuring effective change management, which is a central request in the resolution. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Part and RMA will follow-up with Alberta Labour regarding the development of a communications plan.