Bill 17 updates labour laws in business, agriculture sectors
sion that allowed employers to apply for a permit to pay persons with disabilities less than minimum wage,
Others to note include raising the minimum work age up to 13 years of age, giving more rights to non-family farm and ranch workers, and expanding essential services to continuing care operations.
With the exception of artistic endeavours, youth under the age of 13 will not be allowed to work. The Ministry will be creating a list of lightwork jobs for youth under 16 like accommodation and food service tasks such as setting tables, golf caddying, or working in a proshop, not including cash register work. Every three years, the list will be updated. Any jobs not listed will require a work permit. Excluded from this are programs or events such as 4-H or branding days.
For vacation pay, employees must be paid four per cent or two weeks of their total wages as vacation pay until they have been employed for five years, after which they must receive at least six per cent.
As well as an uneasy Chamber, disgruntled farmers and ranchers have also voiced their concerns over the controversial bill.
“Unionization on farms and ranches could seriously harm the viability of this sector. It’s part of the agriculture community’s culture to treat farm and ranch employees like fam- ily,” said Kent Erickson, CoChair of the newly formed AgCoalition.
“But if employees feel pressured into unionizing, a strike could result in animal welfare issues and irreversible damages to crops.”
The Alberta Agriculture Farm and Ranch Safety Coalition (AgCoalition) was formed in the light of Bill 6; The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
Since then, the group has been working closely with government to drive future change in the right direction.
One of the primary concerns was the process in which the Alberta Government held many consultations with the agriculture industry. The AgCoalition felt the sessions were accurate in their recordings but felt that the new changes would not be achievable within the industry.
“The Bill 6 consultation process saw many farmers and ranchers work tirelessly alongside other consultation participants to develop recommendations that would work at the farm and ranch level,” said Erickson.
“The government’s process to introduce Bill 17 is inconsistent with this work and introduces new provisions that may not be manageable for the agriculture industry.”
Some argue that the labourlaw changes are more than necessary to create an even playing field between employers and employees.
“For far too many years, labour and employment laws in Alberta have meant the odds have been stacked against employees,” said Mike Parker, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) President.
“The proposed changes in this legislation will move us some way towards restoring fairness and balance. We hope to see more reforms in the future that put Albertan workers on a par with the rest of Canada. Alberta workers are as good as any in Canada and deserve the same rights and protections as all other workers.”