Overview

Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada where farm and ranch employees do not have any form of labour relations coverage. The removal of the exemption in the Labour Relations Code will make it legal for waged, non-family 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 indicated that all workers, including those in agriculture, should have the right to form unions and bargain collectively. The full exclusion of farm and ranch workers from Alberta’s Labour Relations Code has been unconstitutional. The government has now acted 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 has taken the unique aspects of the industry into account when developing amendments to the Code.

Changes to the Labour Relations Code will take effect on January 1, 2018, with the exception of the availability of Public Emergency Tribunals for the agriculture industry, which came into effect on June 7, 2017.
 

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. Only waged, non-family members will be able to unionize and collectively bargain.

Changes

With few exceptions, the government accepted 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. Family members will 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. A Public Emergency Tribunal can be used when there is a risk of imminent and irreversible damage to crops and/or livestock welfare in primary agriculture.
The Alberta Labour Relations Board should meet with the agriculture industry to become educated about all aspects of agriculture in Alberta. Recommendation will be forwarded to the Labour Relations Board.