March 12, 2008, Winnipeg, Man. — Agricultural workers in the province will have greater protection and improved safety under regulatory changes to the Employment Standards Code, Labour and Immigration Minister Nancy Allan announced recently.
“The new regulation balances the positions of employers and labour and is the first significant change in over 50 years,” said Allan. “It provides many of the same basic protections that Manitoba workers in almost every other industry now take for granted while recognizing the need for flexibility.”
Manitoba’s agri-food sector is one of the top 10 industries in the province, producing safe, high-quality food and creating jobs, said Allan. Manitoba’s 26,000-plus farmers and their families contribute over five per cent to the province’s GDP and one in 11 jobs in Manitoba depends on direct or indirect spinoffs from agriculture.
The minister noted the new provisions modernize protection for most agricultural workers to better reflect the realities of the industry and will help attract and retain workers in the industry in an increasingly competitive labour market. There is considerable flexibility of coverage in recognition of the nature of the work such as impacts of weather and the seasons, and the special circumstances of family farms.
New provisions for agricultural employees include:
• A new definition of an agricultural worker.
• Full coverage of the Employment Standards Code including standard hours of work and overtime, reporting pay and statutory holidays for workers in large-scale, climate-controlled facilities such as greenhouses, mushroom farms and indoor livestock operations.
Agriculture employees whose work is affected by weather and seasonal demands such as grain and vegetable farming have the following new protections:
• Minimum wage protection.
• Termination notice.
• Child employment protection.
• Vacations and weekly day of rest.
• Work breaks.
• Unpaid leaves.
• Restrictions on payroll deductions.
The regulations will continue the exclusion of family farms, in recognition of the fact that agricultural operations often employ family members and small family-run farms have unique operational features.
“The changes reflect the information and concerns gathered during more than two years of consultations involving agriculture employers, labour organizations, agricultural organizations such as the Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Labour Management Review Committee, and representatives from the province,” said Allan.
The regulations come into force June 30.