Tories turning their backs on 120 years of social progress
Edmonton – Likely Progressive Conservatives (PC) leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk is positioning himself as the proponent of businesses putting 12-year-olds to work.
Expanding the scope of duties 12-year-olds can take on is the first item on the agenda in the discussion guide for the current review of the Alberta Employment Standards Code which is being led by Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.
“We know the Tories are always looking backwards, but feeling nostalgia for 1890s-style child labour is extreme even by their standards,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Last time the government expanded child labour in Alberta, the public cried foul. This just shows that they aren’t listening to Albertans.”
The discussion guide, which was published under Lukaszuk’s supervision, suggests that among the tasks that 12-year-olds could take on include janitorial work. Many janitors and custodians are required to handle toxic cleaning products as part of their duties.
“In the mid-1980s, Employment Standards did not allow 12- 14-year-old children to work in mainstream workplaces. But in 2005, the PC’s changed opened the door to child labour in Alberta,” McGowan said. “There were rules in place about how many hours children are allowed to work – but in the majority of cases, those rules aren’t being followed. Now Thomas Lukaszuk wants to weaken those rules even further.”
In 2009, a survey found 26,000 adolescent workers aged 12-14 were employed. More than 21 per cent of these 12- to 14-year-olds worked in prohibited occupations (janitorial services, sports teams, working on a golf course). Of those employed, 49.7 per cent of adolescents and 59.0 per cent of young persons reported at least one work-related injury in the previous year. This study also identifies widespread non-reporting of workplace injuries and seemingly ineffective hazard identification and safety training.
“Each time the issue of expanding child labour comes up in Alberta, there’s one guy who has put it on the agenda,” McGowan said.
MEDIA CONTACT:Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
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