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.
“We’re going to continue to work to make sure waged, non-family farm workers are enjoying the same rights and protections that other workers in our province have,” Labour Minister Christina Gray said.
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.”
Scroll down to read the full recommendations.
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.
“We now take those consultations and put them before Albertans,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “I don’t think that’s enough.
“They’re putting the cart before the horse. We should’ve seen the consultations with Albertans first. I think we would have resolved a lot of issues.”
The government said it will begin drafting legislative amendments based on the recommendations and public feedback. Albertans have until April 3 to give feedback on the recommendations.
Recommendations from the four technical working groups reviewing Occupational Health and Safety are expected in “the near future,” the NDP said.
“These working groups have been an important step in rebuilding relationships and ensuring that all areas of the agricultural sector have a voice at the table,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said.
“While the process may not have been easy, the commitment to our sector will make for relevant and effective legislative changes.”
In 2015, the NDP’s farm safety bill extended OHS regulations to paid farm employees, and mandate paid workers’ compensation coverage. The decision led to rallies and protests. Many farmers were worried the bill would restrict their children from working on the farm, or prevent neighbours from helping each other.
In December 2015, the provincial government said amendments to the bill make it clear farm and ranch owners and their families are excluded from the new rules.
Click here to read the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Bill 6).
On Monday, Liberal Leader David Swann suggested the NDP was backtracking after Bill 6 protests and pressure from big industrial agriculture operations.
“This government desperately wants to build relationships with the rural community and they feel like they’ve been pushed back on their heels since the bill was introduced in a somewhat haphazard and an incompletely communicated way,” he said. “So, they’ve had a lot of backlash, as we still see.”
However, the province said it was not backtracking, but continuing to seek public input on the contentious rules.
“It was never an intentional trying to slow something down,” Carlier said. “What it was was always making sure we get it right, to take the time to get it right.”
“I think this process… helped appease those worries about consultation and then bring them out to Albertans for further consultation process,” he said. “I really think our consultation has been robust.”
The premier has stressed that from the beginning, the purpose of Bill 6 was to help prevent deaths and injuries on farms and to give paid farm workers the same rights as other employees in the province.
Labour Relations Code Recommendations:
1. Add criteria to the Public Emergency Tribunal (PET) provisions to allow for A PET when there is imminent and irreversible damage to crops and/or livestock welfare in primary agriculture
2. Exclude immediate family from the bargaining unit
3. Add representation on, and education of the Alberta Labour Relations Board with respect to the agricultural industry
4. Representation of agriculture industry should be reflected in the composition of the Labour Relations Board
5. The Alberta Labour Relations Board should meet with the agriculture industry to become educated about all aspects of agriculture in Alberta.
Employment Standards Recommendations
1. The Entitlement to Wages standard should continue to apply to non-family, waged farm and ranch employees
2. The Employment Records standard should continue to apply to non-family, waged farm and ranch employees
3. The Job-Protected Leaves standard should continue to apply to non-family, waged farm and ranch employees
a. It is recommended that Government explore options around the provision of job-protected leaves with the purpose of easing the burden on small businesses in the agriculture industry
4. The Administration and Enforcement standards should continue to apply to nonfamily, waged farm and ranch employees
5. Farm and ranch non-family, waged employees should be exempt from provisions around hours of work and breaks
a. With regards to days of rest the recommendation is that non-family, waged employees be given four days off every 28 days with the employer deciding on which four days, at their convenience and within reason
6. Non-family, waged farm and ranch employees should be exempt from overtime provisions
7. Standards for General Holidays and General Holiday Pay are suitable, for non-family, waged employees with special rules and modifications. The recommended special rule is that employers decide between the following methods to adopt when it comes to general holiday pay entitlements:
· Employees be given a day off in lieu of a day worked on a general holiday and be paid straight time for work performed on the general holiday;
· Employees working on the general holiday be paid 3.6 per cent of wages, with wages based upon a maximum of 44 hours of pay per week;
· The existing provisions in the Employment Standards Code be followed.
8. Vacation and Vacation Pay standards are suitable and should apply to non-family, waged employees on farms and ranches without modification. Vacation pay should be based upon a maximum of 44 hours of pay per week.
9. Standards around the employment of individuals under the age of 18 are suitable for non-family, waged employees however special rules are needed compared to the current standards in the Employment Standards Code. The following are the special rules recommended:
· For youths below 16 years age: work must have no negative impact on schooling, parental consent must be obtained by employers, and the work must not be detrimental to health, education, or welfare.
· For youths 12-13 years age there should be a 20 hours of work per week limit all year round.
10. The TWG concluded that family members of an employer should be exempt from all standards discussed, including those that previously applied (e.g. keeping of employment records, job-protected leaves, termination notice and/or pay).
11. Nurseries, sod farms, mushroom farms, and greenhouses including ornamental ones, should be considered ‘primary production’ and thus have all the same standards and exemptions as the rest of agriculture.
12. The Termination Notice and Pay standards should continue to apply to non-family, waged farm and ranch employees.
13. Standards around minimum wage are suitable, but require certain special rules to be effective. The recommended special rule is that individuals below the age of 16 be entitled to a minimum wage of 75 per cent of the general minimum wage rate for employment on farms and ranches.
With files from Emily Mertz, Global News