Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada where farm and ranch employees do not have any form of labour relations coverage. The proposed removal of the exemption in the Labour Relations Code would make it legal for farm and ranch workers to join labour unions and collectively bargain with their employers if they choose to do so.

Recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions have provided all workers, including those in agriculture, with the right to form unions and bargain collectively. The full exclusion of farm and ranch workers from Alberta’s Labour Relations Code is unconstitutional. The government is now acting to bring this province’s laws into alignment with the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Government has consulted with farmers and ranchers through technical working groups to consider how the potential changes may impact operations, and will explore possible special provisions, such as when bargaining can occur, to address the unique aspects of the farm and ranch industry and family farms.

After the new regulations are developed and approved, changes to the Labour Relations Code will take effect.

Who’s affected?

The extension of labour relations provisions for agricultural workers is meant to capture traditional employer/employee relationships. Owners and managers are not normally considered to be employees, nor are volunteers, and therefore they cannot form a union.

Proposed changes

If passed, Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, would ensure Alberta has modern and fair laws that protect the rights of workers and meet the needs of today’s workplaces.

Changes to employment standards and labour relations legislation, as they relate to farm and ranch operations, are contained in the bill.

With few exceptions, the government accepts the recommendations from Technical Working Groups 1 and 2, which provided direction on employment standards and labour relations.

Source: Alberta Labour
Technical Working Group Recommendations Government's Response
Exclude immediate family members from the bargaining unit. If Bill 17 is passed, family members would be excluded from the bargaining unit.
Representation of the agricultural industry to be reflected in the composition of the Board. The Labour Relations Board must have representation from a variety of industries who need the services of the Board. If required, the Board can recruit for specific knowledge and experience.
Provide education seminars and education materials directly to affected stakeholders. The Labour Relations Board conducts outreach and provides information to stakeholders.
The addition of criteria to the Public Emergency Tribunal provisions in the Labour Relations Code to allow for a PET when there is a risk of imminent and irreversible damage to crops and/or livestock welfare in primary agriculture. If Bill 17 is passed it would contain a clause stating that a PET can be used when there is a risk of imminent and irreversible damage to crops and/or livestock welfare in primary agriculture.