Bill 6 outcry ignores consultations, market realities says farmworkers' union
Group points to years of talks and changes among major processors and retailers
The group behind the push for farm safety legislation is disappointed by the backlash against Bill 6 and says it's disingenuous for protesters to suggest there haven't been consultations.
Eric Musekamp, president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta, says major commissions and boards from the agriculture sector have been working with the government on new rules for years.
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"These people that are upset either haven't been taking part in what's going on, haven't paid attention, or don't like what they're hearing," he said.
"Or maybe they're not getting good information from their boards and their sector groups. But the government has been working with them all the way along. So it's not rooted in reality."
The bill would bring workers' compensation and occupational health and safety regulations to Alberta farms. After an outcry from protesters, the government said the new rules would not affect family members or neighbours helping neighbours and claimed that was its intention all along.
Musekamp also said it could cost Alberta marketshare if the new rules aren't put in place because major food processors and retailers such as Walmart, General Mills and McDonalds have all made public commitments toward sustainable food sources, which includes the treatment of farm workers.
"If we don't have child labour legislation and the right to unionize and everything that's in Bill 6, if we don't have that in place we're going to lose market share. These major corporations are simply not gonna buy our product," he said.
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Musekamp thinks the government has been overwhelmed by the outcry against the legislation and that constructive dialogue has been set aside.
He says along with proclaiming Bill 6, he'd like to see the government create a farm and ranch training society modelled on the experience in British Columbia.
He says such an initiative could quell a lot of concerns and reduce death and injury on farms.