Rights of working children violated, Alberta labour group contends: Most of province's youngest job holders employed illegally, study says

The Alberta Federation of Labour claims tens of thousands of working Alberta children are having their rights violated.

Of an estimated 26,000 children aged 12 to 14 with jobs, 21 per cent were working in prohibited industries, according to a study conducted by Athabasca University. For the estimated 8,200 nine-to 12-year-olds in the workforce, 78 per cent were working illegally.

AFL president Gil McGowan said the results confirm fears of underageworker abuse dating back to 2005 when Alberta changed employment standards to allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants. He said the issue goes unreported. "The problem with the employment standards system as it currently exists is it's a complaintdriven system," he said. "Experience tells us children simply won't lodge complaints because they don't know their rights or don't have the confidence to stand up to employers."

The study, published in the journal Just Labour, randomly surveyed 1,200 homes across the province in 2008 and 2009. Researchers interviewed 20 children, who were found to be working illegally, about their employment conditions. It found most of the children under 12 working illegally were employed delivering newspapers and performing janitorial services. Those 12-14 were primarily employed by sports teams or golf courses or as janitors.

In Alberta, adolescents between 12 and 14 are only permitted to work certain food-service jobs, delivering items such as newspapers and small items, or as retail and office clerks. They can't be asked to work longer than two hours on a school day, or eight hours on weekends and holidays, and cannot work after 9 p.m. or before 6 a.m.

Minister of Employment and Immigration Thomas Lukaszuk said his office had received no such complaints, and questioned why the AFL hadn't reported these instances of abuse against child workers after encountering them.

Edmonton Journal, Apr 22 2011
By Conal Pierse

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