EDMONTON-Nine months into new rules allowing restaurants to hire 12 and 13 year olds it is clear they are failing to protect young workers says the Alberta Federation of Labour today. The AFL released the list of employers who have submitted the paperwork allowing them to employ adolescents. The AFL also announced its intent to post the entire list on its website (see the list here) and update it regularly. The AFL received copies of the forms through a FOIP request.
Between July 1, 2005 and March 31, 2006, the first nine months of the new rules for hiring children, only 160 forms were submitted the required paperwork to the government. This is a fraction of the number of applications the government received before the new rules. According to government figures, 552 permits to hire kids under 14 were granted in 2004, and 359 permits in the first four months of 2005.
"The only explanation for the stunning drop in the number of forms is that employers are not sending in the legally-required paperwork," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "They are taking advantage of the lax nature of the new rules."
"Albertans should be deeply troubled by this development. The government no longer has any idea where most of the 12 year olds are working. If they don't know where they are, they can't protect them. This leaves these young kids vulnerable to unsafe work and to being ripped off."
The list of employers who have submitted forms reveals much about who is hiring adolescent workers. "It is big, fast food chains, for the most part," says McGowan. "The restaurant industry claimed it would be mostly mom-and-pop shops. That hasn't been the case."
One employer alone accounts for over 70 submitted forms. Max Pasley Enterprises, owners of dozens of McDonald�s restaurants in Alberta submitted dozens of forms in a three month period. Max Pasley is listed as one of the 50 largest employers in Alberta, employing more than 3,000 workers.
Before July 2005, employers were required to apply for special permission to hire anyone under the age of 14. Under the new rules, they do not require prior approval, but must still submit a Safety Checklist which demonstrates they received parental consent and have taken other precautions to protect the young worker.
"No one can make me believe the demand for hiring kids under the age of 14 has suddenly disappeared," adds McGowan. "Nine months ago, the government was saying that requests for permits was growing at about 20% per year. Employers have decided the government is irrelevant - and that is bad news for the kids working in restaurants."
The AFL also announced it is publicly posting the list of employers on its website. It will update the list as it receives new information. "Albertans have a right to know which employers are hiring 12-year olds to work in their restaurants," says McGowan. "As consumers the knowledge will help them decide how they wish to spend their money."
The AFL makes no comments about whether the employers who submit forms are safe and fair workplaces. "We have no information about the working conditions at these workplaces. We are simply providing the information to the public and letting them decide for themselves," notes McGowan.
The AFL also renewed its call to scrap the new rules for young workers. "The move to allow 12 and 13 year-olds to work in restaurants is a disaster. The government needs to admit its error and return to the old rules, which did a better job protecting children."
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For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 915-4599 (cell)