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Workers’ comp. mandated for Man. farms

Manitoba farms and farm-related industries will soon have to carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.

Following the recommendations of the provincial Workers Compensation Board in a report released in June, the province will extend mandatory WCB coverage to an additional 7,500 employers and 30,000 workers, starting January 1, 2009.

In the ag sector, this decision will extend mandatory coverage to employees working in farming (as well as “incidental” farming activities), “farm-related” services, beekeeping, livestock markets, greenhouses, hatcheries, “animal services” (which covers boarding facilities, stables, kennels, riding academies, horse exercising, training or racing and pet breeding, pet sitting, training, washing/grooming and pet waste removal) and veterinary services.

“This is another important step and extends compulsory
coverage to about 30,000 employees in industries that are higher
risk, related to currently covered industries or to industries
that already have higher levels of voluntary coverage,” Labour Minister Nancy Allan said in a release Wednesday.

Among other industries affected by this expansion will be auction houses, freight shipping, laboratories, research, vermin extermination, unions and labour organizations, rental services and political parties, including constituency offices.

Manitoba’s decision leaves Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan with lower levels of mandatory workers’ comp coverage in their workforce.

“Manitoba will no longer have the lowest level of coverage in the
country and we are pleased to have moved into the Canadian
mainstream,” Allan said.

Allan also said the WCB will launch a campaign to
“encourage voluntary coverage for non-compulsory industries after
implementation of the extension as was recommended by the public
review.”

“High risk”

“Farming, in all or part, is compulsory in every jurisdiction except Manitoba,” the WCB had said in its report in June, adding that some jurisdictions cover only a part of the ag industry.

“Farm workers are at high risk of sprains, strains, tears, bruises, and fractures from working with machinery and livestock,” the report said. “They also experience occupational illnesses from exposure to grain dust, chemicals and fertilizers. Farming also has a very high fatality rate.”

Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province’s general farm organization, had urged the WCB during its consultations earlier this year to keep WCB coverage optional for farmers.

“Farmers do currently have the option to take WCB coverage, and some farmers have found this to be an appropriate tool,” KAP president Ian Wishart wrote at the time. “However, other farmers have opted to subscribe to private insurance programs. KAP believes it should be a farmer’s decision to select the approach that works best.”

Wishart, who farms at Portage la Prairie, noted that several private programs also extend a worker’s coverage for 24 hours, as opposed to just the hours of work, which he said can be a greater benefit to a farm worker than WCB coverage.

Out of about 4,800 farm employers in the province, 514 now have voluntary WCB coverage, the WCB report said.

Range of expected charges for mandatory workers’ compensation coverage, if legislated for Manitoba farm-related industries, per $100 of assessable payroll

Farming $2.44 to $2.75
Farm-related services $2.44 to $2.75
Beekeeping $2.45 to $2.75
Animal services $0.39 to $0.44
Greenhouses $0.39 to $0.44
Poultry hatcheries $2.45 to $2.75
Livestock markets $2.44 to $2.75
Veterinary services $1.46 to $1.65

Source: Extending Workers Compensation Coverage report, Manitoba Workers Compensation Board, June 2008.

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