report that examines the exclusion of Alberta farm workers from mandatory workers’ compensation. The short version is that Alberta’s waged farm workers generally have no wage-replacement, vocational rehabilitation or fatality benefits because the Tories have decided it is more important to retain the electoral support of rural voters (who don’t want to pay workers’ compensation premiums).
There is obvious more to it than that. One interesting wrinkle is that farm workers face very similar working conditions to firefighters. Neither can refuse unsafe work. Both have high risks of workplace injury, including developing occupational cancer. Yet farm workers have no access to workers’ compensation benefits. By contrast, firefighters have exceptional access, particularly around the issue of workplace cancer.
What explains this? Well, firefighters are unionized, white males who work for sophisticated employers who don’t oppose workers’ compensation for injuries sustained on the job. Farm workers? Not so much. Add in craven electoral politics and you see the government allowing farmers to transfer the cost of workplace injuries onto their workers and the public health system.
-- Bob Barnetson