|Farmworkers union continuing WCB push|
|Local Content - Local Agriculture|
|Written by Stan Ashbee|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2012 17:44|
It’s just a matter of wait and see for Eric Musekamp, president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta (FUA).
Musekamp wants an extension of mandatory worker’s compensation paid to farmworkers so that these costs and more are paid for by the agriculture industry through the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) and not paid for by taxpayers through Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Through recent letters, Musekamp has contacted Fred Horne, the health and wellness minister and Heather Forsyth, the official opposition health critic regarding the issue. Musekamp has also spoke with the NDP and the Liberal party regarding this issue.
In the letter to Horne, Musekamp wrote it is a burden placed upon the health ministry by virtue of the lack of workplace health and safety legislation and the absence of WCB coverage in the Alberta agriculture industry. The letter asks for Horne to support Alberta Premier Alison Redford in the effort to include agriculture in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and mandatory WCB.
“I want the matter raised as I think that it’s proper for the industry to pay for these costs rather than us,” said Musekamp.
The letter to Forsyth discussed the costs borne by AHS to treat injured farmworkers and indicated the cost borne by AHS identified by Bob Barnetson, associate professor, labour relations for the Centre for Work and Community Studies program at Athabasca University.
“The FUA asked me if I had reliable estimates of the health care costs associated with farm injuries. Specifically, they wanted to know whether I knew what costs were being passed onto the health care system by farmers who did not have WCB. Under WCB, the health care costs are billed back to the WCB and eventually passed onto employers. Farmers do not have WCB, thus health care costs associated with uncovered injuries are transferred or externalized from farmers onto taxpayers,” said Barnetson.
The letter asked that Forsyth support the extension of mandatory WCB for injured farmworkers, as well.
Barnetson provided Musekamp with a rough estimate regarding medical costs with agricultural injuries in Alberta, according to a letter received by Musekamp from Barnetson.
“We asked Bob if he could do a calculation of what the cost transferred to the health system is from agriculture because there is no worker’s compensation coverage for most of the farmworkers,” said Musekamp.
In the letter, Barnetson mentioned it is difficult to provide accurate costs because the data is spotty on injuries, injury costs, number of workers, etc. Based on 2011 WCB data, there were 2825 workers on 1300 “farming operations” covered by worker’s compensation in Alberta.
“Farming operations” exclude apiaries, feedlots, greenhouses, etc. but “farming operations” seemed to encompass the largest group of agricultural workers so Barnetson said he used that data.