Thursday, January 19, 2012

Saskatchewan recommends workers' compensation for farm workers

Saskatchewan has just finished a review of its Workers’ Compensation Act and the committee has made 57 recommendations.

The first and most interesting recommendation is that all exclusions to the Act be eliminated. In Saskatchewan, 30% of workers did not have workers’ compensation coverage in 2009. This includes a significant number of farm workers.

The Saskatchewan review panel’s argument is that “no fault coverage for injured workers is a mark of a just society and of improved relationships between business and labour…” (p.5). This was a consensus recommendation among the committee members, who included both employer and worker representatives. It does not look like there were any agricultural representatives on the committee.

In Alberta, somewhere between 10% and 15% of workers fall outside the ambit of workers’ compensation. The true level of exclusion will be somewhat higher due to under-reporting. The list of exclusions is fairly bizarre, encompassing both the safest jobs (e.g., accountants, clergy) and the most dangerous (e.g., farm workers, prostitutes).

The report also makes recommendations regarding injury prevention, including bringing agriculture into the realm of occupational health and safety. (In Alberta, farming is almost entirely unregulated.) It recommends all fines and administrative penalties be retained by the WCB and put toward further injury prevention work.

-- Bob Barnetson

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