When the Alberta government changed employment standards rules governing 12-year olds working in restaurants last year, one of the big mysteries was "why". That question was answered today, when an official from McDonald's admitted they approached the government and asked for the change.
"It is clear today that the government - behind closed doors and without public consultation - relaxed rules protecting 12- and 13-year olds because one employer asked for it," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "It says volumes about how regulations are made in this province. If a well-heeled donor of the Conservatives asks for it - they get it."
Max Pasley Enterprises is a large donor to the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. Between 2001 and 2004, the company donated a total of $15,000 to the party. It donated $5,000 in each of 2001 and 2004, and $2,500 in 2002 and again in 2003. Max Pasley Enterprises is one of Alberta's 50 largest companies, employing over 3,000 workers. It is McDonald's largest franchise operator in the province. Since the new rules, Max Pasley has submitted forms for over 70 adolescent workers - by far the largest number of young workers in the province.
In today's Edmonton Journal, Gavin Stafford, a senior marketing executive with McDonald's is quoted as saying that Max Pasley Enterprises and the parent company asked for the new rules. "I understood that there were people from McDonald's HR department and from Pasley Enterprises that met with, if not the minister, with somebody in the department." (Edmonton Journal, B5)
"This completes the circle," says McGowan. "An important friend of the Conservatives feels bogged down by paperwork and stringent government regulations. They approach decision-makers in the government to relax the rules. And within months the rules are relaxed."
"Albertans should be very troubled about how government policy is made in this province. Who won't they sell out to satisfy their Tory friends?"
The AFL has been a vocal critic of the rules change, arguing it leaves young workers vulnerable to unsafe working conditions and exploitation. "If the government doesn't know where the 12-year olds are working, they can't protect them," observes McGowan. The AFL is calling for a ban on employing anyone under the age of 15 in restaurants.
The rule change eliminated the requirement that an employer must seek a permit before they can hire a person under the age of 15. The extra rules limited the number of employers who wanted to hire adolescents, and ensured that Employment Standards and Workplace Health and Safety officers knew which workplaces were hiring adolescents, and could inspect them.
"This is government by pay-off. If you give enough to the party, you can change the law. Where this leaves 12-year olds and other Albertans is another question." McGowan concludes.
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For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 915-4599 (cell)