Alberta remains one of the most dangerous places in Canada to work, especially for young workers: AFL
Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour is responding to Saturday’s death of a 15-year-old worker.
Alberta’s child, youth, and adolescent labour laws are among the worst in Canada, says the AFL. The province had a chance to toughen up those standards in a recent Employment Standards review, but nothing came of it.
“Alberta’s child labour laws are among the most lax in Canada,” says Siobhan Vipond, AFL Secretary Treasurer. “The AFL has repeatedly made recommendations to improve working conditions and safety standards, specifically for young workers. This weekend’s tragic news is yet another reminder that much more needs to be done to keep Albertans safe at work.”
“Just a few months ago, Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk launched a review of Alberta’s workplace laws. But the first item up for review was a question about expanding child labour,” says Vipond. “Instead of rushing more young workers onto potentially unsafe work sites, we need to keep young workers safe. Today, Alberta is one of the most unsafe places for young people to work.”
The AFL’s submission on April 11, 2014 to the Employment Standards contained several pages of recommendations on young workers.
"Alberta needs targeted inspections of workplaces that employ 15-17 year olds, especially in construction and other comparatively dangerous occupations,” says Vipond. “The AFL made urgent recommendations earlier this year, and this past weekend we are sadly reminded why these changes are so desperately needed in Alberta.”
A recent survey showed 49.7% of 797 adolescents surveyed had experienced at least one workplace injury in the previous year.
For 15-17 year olds, the research has shown young, minor workers are particularly vulnerable to abuses in the workplace, such as illegal deductions, unsafe work, handling of hazardous materials, and sexual harassment.
For that reason, the AFL recommended a program of targeted inspections and a special, mandated health and safety training programme for employers who hire 15-17 year old Albertans. Alberta must also review whether some industrial activities or occupations are prohibited for adolescents, particularly in forklift operations and construction work.
Brad Lafortune, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.901.1177 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]
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)
or via e-mail [email protected]
Jobs Minister floats suggestion to increase scope of jobs that 12-year-olds can be hired into
Edmonton – Alberta's largest worker organization is asking the province to take the expansion of child labour off the table.
Today is the deadline for submissions to the review of the Employment Standards Code launched in March by Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. The first question that the government asks in its discussion guide for the review has to do with expanding the variety of jobs that 12-14 year olds are permitted to do.
In their written submission to the review, the Alberta Federation of Labour expressed strong opposition to any such expansion.
"Albertans don't want 12-year-olds working in restaurant kitchens. They don't want 13-year-olds working as janitors and handling hazardous cleaning materials," Alberta Federation of Labour president McGowan said. "The fact that this is the first item on Mr. Lukaszuk's Employment Standards agenda shows that he did not hear Albertans the last time his PC government expanded child labour. Albertans rejected it then, and they reject it now."
McGowan added that this "is a very odd way for Lukaszuk to launch a bid for the PC leadership."
"Instead of distancing himself from the bad policy that has characterized the government over the past few years, the Minister seems to be determined to make even more bad policy before he resigns to pursue his leadership aspirations. I guess we'll have to start referring to him as the 'child labour' candidate."
The AFL recommendations on Employment Standards are contained in a detailed analysis of provincial work standards. The Executive Summary is here and the full report is here. The recommendations fall in eight categories:
1) End special permits issued by the Director of Employment Standards. There should be one set of rules for every employer, not exceptions for friends and insiders.
2) End the discrimination against workers with disabilities, farm workers, and domestic workers, and include them in basic Employment Standards protections.
3) Get tough on employers who abuse Temporary Foreign Workers, and make sure employers aren't using the TFW Program to drive down wages and working conditions and displace Albertans from jobs
4) Enforce the rules and get tough on employers that try to cheat the system. Recommendations here are tougher fines, more prosecutions, and on-the-spot administrative penalties (ticketing) for employers who break the rules.
5) Fairness for people who work in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries by ending illegal deductions, having a clear law on tips, and ending the two-tier minimum wage.
6) Ending the confusion around stat pay and overtime – clean up the language in the legislation and make our laws consistent with the rest of the country.
7) End – don't expand – child labour in Alberta.
8) Recognize we are all juggling work and family by bringing our parental and maternity leave standards up to the standards in the rest of Canada and expanding the number of leaves employees can take without losing job protection.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]
There are widespread violations of employment standards for working children and adolescents in Alberta, according to a study by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and Athabasca University.
"Tens of thousands of adolescent Albertans, aged 12 to 14, are employed and 21 per cent of them work in illegal jobs," said Gil McGowan, president of AFL, which represents 140,000 workers. "The story for child workers, aged 9 to 11, is even worse, with 78 per cent doing work prohibited by the government."
Underage workers need more than a few targeted inspections, said McGowan.
“Alberta's complaints-driven employment standards system does not work for families in this province," she said, adding Alberta's Dickensian decision to allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants has exacerbated the problem.
"There is no incentive for employers to ensure children and adolescents are working in safe and legal situations or that they are being paid appropriately. Violations of employment standards laws simply result in a cease-and-desist order or an order to pay wages owed."
The study by Bob Barnetson, an assistant professor of labour relations at the Centre for Work and Community Studies at Athabasca University in Edmonton, involved a survey of 1,200 Alberta homes as well as followup interviews with parents and children or adolescents who participate in the workforce.
The interview data raised further concerns about potentially widespread violations of hours of work, minimum wage, call-in pay, minimum age, legal deductions and restaurant industry regulations, said the study “Effectiveness of complaint-driven regulation of child labour in Alberta” in Just Labour.
“This degree of non-compliance suggests that complaint-driven enforcement may not be an effective way to regulate child labour. The inability of potential complainants to recognize violations and their unwillingness to trigger enforcement appear to be key issues.”
Key study findings include:
• In 2009, 6.3 per cent of children had jobs — 8,200 children aged nine to 11. A total of 78 per cent of the jobs done by children were illegal, such as newspaper delivery or janitorial services. The remaining 22 per cent had jobs such as babysitting and yard work.
• 26,000 adolescent workers (12 to 14) were employed. More than 21 per cent worked in prohibited occupations (such as janitorial services, sports teams or working on a golf course). By contrast, 28.6 per cent of jobs appear to be legal types of employment (such as newspaper delivery, retail sales, restaurants or agriculture). The remaining 50 per cent of jobs were babysitting and yard work.
The effect of improbable enforcement may be exacerbated by the financial incentive employers have to not comply as well as the lack of meaningful consequence for violations, said the study.
“It may be possible to increase compliance with child labour laws by supplementing complaint-driven enforcement with significant numbers of random inspections.”
The AFL called on Alberta's Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk to immediately reverse the decision to allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants and commit to a continuing program of random proactive employment standards inspections for employers who are known to employ underage workers. The minister also needs to make immediate changes to employment standards enforcement mechanisms and ensure prosecution of employers that break the law, said McGowan.
A copy of this study can be found at Just Labour.
HR Reporter, Thurs Apr 28 2011
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
April 2011: Widespread violations of child-labour laws revealed; government performance on oil sands shameful; fed Conservatives accused of hypocrisy in dealing with immigrants; Albertans...
Widespread violations of child-labour rules revealed in study
- Tens of thousands of adolescent Albertans are in the workforce – 21 per cent of them in illegal jobs, according to an Alberta Federation of Labour study. It found there were widespread violations of employment standards for adolescents and children in the province. For more information...
Government performance on oil sands shameful
- The Auditor General's report revealed the Progressive Conservative government has failed to institute a way of tracking its revenue from oil-sands operations, meaning it might have foregone billions of dollars in revenue. Meanwhile, Premier Stelmach and others in the government continue to act as pitch men for a pipeline company that wants to ship raw bitumen – and good jobs – out of the province. For more on AG press release ... and for Keystone XL release ...
Federal Conservatives accused of hypocrisy in dealing with immigrants
- The Conservative Party of Canada reaches out to immigrants Canadians with one hand, but crafts policies that punish them with the other. It has cut targets for real immigration, while increasing the number of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), who have little protection from abusive employers and recruitment agencies. New rules introduced this month will make it almost impossible for TFWs to even consider becoming citizens. For more information ...
Albertans warned to brace for Tea Party policies
- The infamous billionaire Koch brothers from Kansas – who have spent tens of millions of dollars funding climate-change deniers and the extreme right-wing Tea Party in the U.S. – have hired a lobbyist to push the Alberta government on taxation, economic development and energy and resource issues. Meanwhile, the AFL revealed that a provincial cabinet minister had links to an organization calling for restrictions to collective-bargaining rights in Alberta. For AFL press release ... and for the Edmonton Journal news item ...
Gate Gourmet locks out workers in Edmonton - About 60 workers at Gate Gourmet's facility at Edmonton International Airport have been locked out after rejecting a final offer from the company that included a three-year wage freeze. The employees, represented by UFCW 401, had been seeking only moderate increases that would barely allow them to keep up with the rising cost of living. Show your support by joining them on the picket line at Airport Road. For more ...
- April 28 - International Day of Mourning
- April 28 - May 1 – AFL Convention
- May 1 – May Day
- May 9-13 – CLC Convention
- May 17 - International Day Against Homophobia
- May 21 - International Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
Did you know ...
- 8,200 Alberta children aged nine to 11 have jobs.
- 78 per cent of the jobs done by children are clearly illegal, including newspaper delivery and janitorial services.
- 26,000 adolescents, aged 12-14, work in Alberta.
- More than 21 per cent of working adolescents are employed in prohibited occupations, including janitorial services, sports teams and working on golf courses.
- 50 per cent of the jobs done by adolescents fall into the grey area of babysitting and yard work.
- The AFL study reveals that violations of child-labour laws included working too many hours, being paid less than minimum wage and working in prohibited jobs or performing prohibited tasks.
- The study also showed that parents did not fully understand their children's rights and had difficulty monitoring workplace conditions. For more ...
A new study suggests thousands of children in Alberta are working illegally.The Athabasca University study estimates 8,200 kids from the ages of nine to 11 are doing prohibited work, including doing janitorial jobs.The report says about 26,000 children from the ages of 12 to 14 are on the job illegally.The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on the provincial government to crack down on employment standards violations that involve young people.AFL president Gil McGowan says the province should not allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants and should do more random inspections of work sites.Earlier this year, Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk announced his department will step up inspections of job sites that employ young workers.
Metro Canada Calgary, Apr 21 2011
Alberta's child labour laws are set out in the Employment Standards Code. This law makes it illegal to employ children under 12. It strictly limits when and what adolescents (age 12-14) can do.
Study finds widespread violations of standards for underage workers in Alberta: More than one in five employed adolescents work in prohibited jobs – survey
Edmonton – There are widespread violations of employment standards for working children and adolescents in Alberta, according to a study by the province’s largest labour group.
“Tens of thousands of adolescent Albertans, aged 12 to 14, are employed and 21 per cent of them work in illegal jobs,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers. “The story for child workers, aged 9 to 11, is even worse, with 78 per cent doing work prohibited by the government.”
The study’s release comes in the wake of the Minister of Employment and Immigration saying he would soon be announcing targeted inspections of workplaces that employ young workers.
“This study shows that underage workers need more than a few targeted inspections. Alberta's complaints-driven Employment Standards system does not work for families in this province,” says McGowan. The AFL president added that Alberta's Dickensian decision to allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants has exacerbated the problem.
“There is no incentive for employers to ensure children and adolescents are working in safe and legal situations, or that they are being paid appropriately. Violations of employment standards laws simply result in a cease-and-desist order, or an order to pay wages owed.”
The Athabasca University study involved a survey of 1,200 Alberta homes as well as follow-up interviews with parents and children/adolescents who participate in the workforce.
Key study findings include:
- In 2009, 6.3 per cent of children had jobs - 8,200 children aged nine to 11. A total of 78 per cent of the jobs done by children were clearly illegal, such as newspaper delivery, janitorial services. The remaining 22 per cent had jobs such as babysitting and yard work.
- 26,000 adolescent workers (12 to 14) were employed. More than 21 per cent worked in prohibited occupations (janitorial services, sports teams, working on a golf course). By contrast, 28.6 per cent of jobs appear to be legal types of employment (newspaper delivery, retail sales, restaurants, agriculture). The remaining 50 per cent of jobs were babysitting and yard work.
“We are calling on Employment Minister Lukaszuk to do three things. First, he should immediately reverse the decision to allow children as young as 12 to work in restaurants. Second, the minister should immediately commit to a continuing program of random proactive employment standards inspections for employers who are known to employ underage workers. Third, the minister needs to make immediate changes to Employment Standards enforcement mechanisms, and ensure prosecution of employers who break the law,” says McGowan.
Employment rate surveys were conducted under contract by the University of Alberta Population Research Laboratory in 2008 and 2009. Random sampling of 1,200 homes resulted in statistically generalizable results with an estimated sampling error of 2.8 per cent at the 95-per-cent confidence level.
Interviews were conducted with children, adolescents and parents in the spring and summer of 2009. Initial subjects were recruited through newspaper advertisement and handbills and snowball sampling was subsequently used. Interview results are not statistically generalizable but are analytically generalizable.
The peer-reviewed Athabasca University study was conducted by Dr. Bob Barnetson, Associate Professor of Labour Relations and published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Just Labour.
A copy of this study can be found at http://www.justlabour.yorku.ca/volume16/pdfs/03_barnetson_press.pdf
Contacts: Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780.218.9888
Dr. Bob Barnetson, Associate Professor of Labour Relations, Athabasca University, 1-866-418-7198
The Alberta Federation of Labour has learned the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) has altered its policy regarding the hiring of minors to work in bars and lounges. Effectively immediately, bar and lounge owners can apply to use 12-17 year-olds in the kitchen area of their establishments.
The AFL received a copy of an email (dated March 15, 2007) widely distributed by the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (CRFA) trumpeting the decision. An AFL staffer subsequently confirmed the change this morning with the AGLC's Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs. This follows the decision last year by the Alberta government to allow restaurants to hire 12 to 14 year-olds.
"Minors aren't allowed in bars, but they can toil away in the kitchens of bars. The logic of this is beyond belief," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "No one can convince me that a bar atmosphere is appropriate for a young teenager. Drunk patrons, worldly staff and alcohol sales add up to an adult environment, both in the bar and behind the scenes. It is no place for a 12-year old."
The AGLC indicates the change was made at the request of the CRFA due to their claims of labour shortages.
"The Alberta government has its priorities completely backward," says McGowan. "It is supposed to protect our kids, but instead it slavishly serves the self-interests of an industry with a spotty employment track record."
"Hiring 12-year olds to work in restaurants is indefensible enough. Hiring them to work in bars is a whole new level of appalling."
The AGLC says it will weigh the merits of each application, denying applications for employers who have breached their licenses in some way. "I�ll believe it when I see it," responds McGowan. "Where are the checks and balances?"
"Who will stand up to protect our young people from being exploited? Clearly not the Conservative government," McGowan concludes.
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For More Information
Gil McGowan Cell: (780) 218-9888