Planting Beans

Planting Beans

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manure company not exempt from employment standards requirements

The Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled that a manure transporting and spreading company is not a "farm" within the meaning of the Ontario Employment Standards Act ("ESA").  Organix Matters Inc. ("Organix") was found by the Ministry of Labour to have violated the overtime provision in the ESA; employees worked in excess of the maximum hours of work permitted by the Act, were not paid at the overtime rate, and worked more than the maximum number of hours without required breaks for meals or rest.

Organix does the primary tillage and injects manure into the soil thereby ensuring an even application of nutrients and reducing odour and nitrogen losses. Organix uses large pieces of agriculture equipment with specialized tire rims to prevent soil compaction to ensure the best root growth for crops and the best crop yields. Organix’s process is fast and efficient. What traditionally took a week can be done in half a day. Farmers use Organix because it is cost effective and efficient. The farmer gets the benefit of Organix’s spreading processes without having to make the large capital investment of buying the equipment.

Spring is Organix’s busiest season with the early application of manure on winter wheat plants to meet its nitrogen requirements. Organix then fertilizes hay and corn. When the first crop of hay has been taken there is an immediate requirement for the application of manure so that the second planting of hay is not burned. In the summer, Organix fertilizes summer soybeans and white beans. In the fall, Organix fertilizes winter wheat before snow falls, because under the Nutrient Management Act fertilizer can not be applied to frozen ground. In the winter, Organix’s operations are mostly suspended with the exception of assisting farmers if a manure pit overflows.

Organix argued to the Labour Relations Board that it was a farm operation and, therefore, the overtime provisions did not apply.  However, the Board found that Organix employees are not engaged in farming; it is a commercial operation which provides a service to approximately 200 farms, and Organix employees do not have a direct employment relationship with the farmer.  The Board did not agree that Organix is involved in the primary production of farm produce; it provides ancillary services. 

The Board noted further:
Organix may be considered under some legislation to be operating in farming or agriculture. Had the legislature intended the exemption to apply to commercial operations such as Organix it could have used the definitions used in other pieces of legislation under which Organix is considered an “agricultural operation,” “person engaged in the business of farming,” “agriculture,” or user of “farm implement[s]”under other pieces of legislation. The Act’s purpose is different from than other pieces of legislation because it has as its purpose, the protection of workers and the insurance of minimum employment standards.

Read the decision at: Organix Matters Inc. v. Director of Employment Standards.