Bill 6 amendments exempt families from WCB, workplace safety rules

Amendments to Alberta's proposed farm safety legislation were tabled Monday as the NDP government tries to quell a growing backlash to Bill 6 in rural communities.

Alberta amends Bill 6 to exclude the family farm

7 years ago
Duration 2:46
Labour minister Lori Sigurdson apologizes for the miscommunication with the farming community on the original draft of Bill 6.

Amendments to Alberta's proposed farm safety legislation were tabled Monday as the NDP government tried to quell a growing backlash to Bill 6 in rural communities. 

The changes exempt family members from WCB and occupational health and safety rules, whether they are paid for farm work or not. Neighbours who come to the farm to help are also exempt. 

The new rules, which come into effect Jan. 1, will apply only to paid workers who are not related to the owner of the ranch or farm.  If a death or injury occurs, occupational health and safety will only investigate the farm if it has paid workers. 

"We're amending the bill now to make clear what should have been made clear at the beginning of this process," said Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier.

Farmers and ranchers have until the end of April to get an account with WCB. 

However, the amendments do nothing to protect a child who is badly injured or killed on a farm. 

Sigurdson acknowledged the focus of the bill is to protected paid workers. "It's a step forward," she said. 

Over the next year to 18 months, the government will consult on industry-specific technical regulations that deal with chemicals, sharp objects and equipment. These issues will be written into regulations. 

Calls for consultation

Opposition to the bill has grown ever since it was released last month. More than 1,000 farmers and ranchers demonstrated at two separate protests at the legislature last week.

Hundreds have crowded into town halls to voice opposition to the bill, which aims to subject farms and ranches to workplace safety rules and mandatory Workers' Compensation Board coverage for the first time. 

Many farmers and ranchers say they fear the bill will bar their children from helping with chores, or prevent neighbours from helping them with calving and harvesting.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean repeated his call for the government to kill Bill 6 and consult further with farmers and ranchers. Jean said he doesn't think the amendments will help. 

"No matter what they do to try to fix the bill, I don't think it's going to satisfy Alberta's farmers and ranchers," he said. 

PC MLA Richard Starke says people at a meeting in Vermilion on the weekend said they were planning to ignore the bill if it is passed.
Alberta Federation of Labour displays 112 work gloves, each representing the death of a farm worker since 2009. (CBC)

"These are law-abiding people. They respect the rule of law in our communities and in our society," he said. "There's a problem with legislation that leaves people with no other option but to consider no other option but to consider civil disobedience."

Documents distributed to reporters when the bill was introduced last month said the bill would apply to children and unpaid workers.

However, Sigurdson, Carlier and Premier Rachel Notley now insist that information was put out in error and the measures will only apply to operations with paid workers.

When asked who provided direction to put the "incorrect" information on the web, Sigurdson said she couldn't provide that answer and said she would look into it.

Notley has vowed to pass the bill before the end of 2015. She said the amendments will clarify who is covered by the bill.

Labour organizers expressed their support for the bill Monday.

The Alberta Federation of Labour laid out 112 pairs of worker's gloves representing the number of farm workers who have died in a workplace accident since 2009.

"It's got nothing to do with the farmers and their families participating in their everyday lives and continuing on the way they have," said Theresa McLaren, with the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

"It's about the paid employees that they hire."

AFL president ​Gil McGowan said farm workers have been denied their rights as employees.