By Tim Kalinowski
The president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta says those who think they can get better liability insurance in the private insurance market are being sold a bill of goods.
“Mr. Kenney sure should know Workers Compensation is not replaceable with private insurance,” states Eric Musecamp. “By virtue of the WCB legislation it protects employers from legal liability and lawsuits, there is no other way to avoid having a legal liability as an employer but WCB. It’s not replaceable.
“In addition, WCB pays the healthcare system for the care costs of injured workers. Private insurance does not do that.”
Musecamp says farmers who think they can save a few bucks by going the private insurance route should really think twice. He says the United Conservative Party plan to exempt farms with three or fewer employees from OHS and WCB legislation does not exempt those farmers from legal liability for those workers— it just leaves them out there “flapping in the breeze.”
“The employer is legally responsible and liable for their employees, whether it is one or 100,” explains Musecamp. “So to try to exempt guys who employ three or fewer workers from safety legislation completely puts employers on the legal hook— as well as denying workers access to WCB and safety protocols. Three or fewer employees encompasses most farms with employees, certainly the bulk of them.”
“OHS and WCB are probably the two most powerful risk mitigation tools available to employers,” he adds, “and the employers should have a right to that as much as the workers— which it has been pointed out have a constitutional right to be protected under OHS and WCB. But employers have that same constitutional right to be protected under those same pieces of legislation.”
Now that the election is over, Musecamp says he hopes the UCP government will realize they are only hurting the farmers they claim to be listening to if the repeal Bill 6 and leave farms without any liability coverage whatsoever as they head back to the table for further consultations.
“I am hoping Mr. Kenney will simmer down the rhetoric now that he has been elected, and look a little more closely at what Bill 6 is all about and examine the legal, moral and business imperatives that gave rise to Bill 6,” states Musecamp. “If he repeals this even for five minutes the guys out there now would be under what I would suggest is an intolerable liability risk.”