Potatoes in Canada

New recommendations for farm workers in Alberta

EDMONTON - A group examining applying employment standards to Alberta's agriculture sector recommends that farm workers should not get overtime pay. The Employment Standards Technical Working Group has been reviewing the standards to see how it could apply to farm and ranch workers.

The group says standards around pay, employment records, job-protected leaves and termination notice should apply to workers. However, it recommends having no set hours of work or breaks and no overtime. It recommends that non-family employees get four days off every 28 days, at the employer's discretion. The group says family members who are employed at farms and ranches should be exempt from all employment standards.

"The application of standards would be impractical and unfeasible, as well as burdensome without providing any benefit," the group recommends in a report released Monday. The group says non-family workers aged 12 and 13 should be allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. For non-family workers under 16, the work must "not be detrimental to health, education, or welfare and parental consent must be obtained by employers." It suggests sufficient time be allowed to phase in changes and sessions be offered to teach farm owners about the employment standards.

Another recommendation was that non-family workers under 16 be paid 75 per cent of the minimum wage rate, but that was not agreed to by the whole group. The government said Albertans have until April 3 to give feedback on the recommendations. Alberta passed legislation that took effect in January 2016 to include farm and ranch workers in general occupational health and safety rules. The changes contained in that legislation ignited protests at the legislature and threats to Premier Rachel Notley and some of her cabinet.

March 7, 2017  By The Canadian Press

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