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  • Volume Eight, Number Eight: December 2003

    Child Labour Back in BC:

    BC children are being put to work!

    - Graeme Moore

    Soon, probably by Christmas, BC children between the ages of 12 and 14, with only one parent’s approval, will be able to work full-time, any time, in any business within provincial jurisdiction.  Provincial jurisdiction means agriculture including hand harvesting of berry crops, retail including street vendor and door-to-door sales and service including food preparation and office cleaning.  All that an employer will need to put a child as young as 12 years old to work is the written consent of one parent, even if the other parent objects!  Child employment law in BC is going from:
    “A person must not employ a child under the age of 15 without the director’s permission”, to,
    “A person must not employ a child under 15 years of age unless the person has obtained the written consent of the child’s parent or guardian”
    Previously, a parent’s written consent was a necessary but not sufficient condition to employ a child under the age of 15; now, it is all that is needed, even if the other parent disapproves!

    Gordon Campbell, Premier of BC, is ending about 70 years of government control of the employment of children.  No more will the Director of Employment Standards:
    • investigate applications for child employment permit to certify that the work and the workplace are safe for a child and that the hours of work are not too long for a child to perform. 
    • ensure that the child gets to and from the workplace without risk. 
    • confirm that school principals have determine the proposed employment does not interferes with the child’s education. 

    BC government contends that children will be safer and better protected:
    • with only a parent’s written consent between them and a job. 
    • without the Director’s ensuring that the work, hours of work and workplace are safe and suitable for children. 
    • without school authorities ensuring education comes first. 
    BC government asserts that it will penalize employers who employ children without a parent’s consent.  Parental consent, however, is not enough.

    Parental consent does not protect children!  We know from history that parental consent did not keep children out of coal pits, out of cotton mills. BC Employment Standards Branch has encountered parents who consented for their children under 15, some as young as 12 years old, to work:
    • alone,
    • without adult supervision,
    • on machinery that they could not reach the kill switch,
    • with power cutting tools like rotary saws, circular saws, table saws, band saws,
    • from dawn to dusk, and
    • to take a 90 minute bus ride home, alone, at night

    BC government promises to create regulations to control the employment of children.  These regulations, however, have yet to be made public.  When presenting the changes, the BC government announced the type of regulations it planned to create:

    In the general child employment regulation, this government has set out specific rules that apply to children between these ages [12 to 14]. An employer must ensure that the child does not work during school hours on a school day, does not work more than four hours on a school day or 20 hours in a week when school is in session, and does not work more than 35 hours in a week when school is not in session. Also, the child is under direct, immediate supervision of an adult.
    Elsewhere there was mention of a 7 hour day when school is not in session. 

    We know what will not be in the general child employment regulation because the BC government defeated amendments that would have added the following conditions:
    • limit hours of work to no more than 2 hours on a school day and no more than 8 hours on any other day.
    • no work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
    • no work in an environment that could negatively affect a child's safety, health or well-being.

    It also should be noted that there was:
    • No mention of prohibited workplaces or occupations. 
    • No prohibition against going door-to-door, selling goods on streets, using power tools or operating motorized equipment. 
    • No requirement that tools be ‘kid-sized’. 
    • No consideration of how children will get to and from their workplace. 
    • No restriction of hours of work to daytime.
    • No differentiation between children 12 and those 14.

    Without appropriate government control of the employment of children, children will be victims of workplace injuries and deaths. Some parents will come to view their children as sources of income, as a source of income undetectable by government agencies, therefore, will be all the more induced to put them to work.  Employment not education, for those BC children, will become their primary activity. 

    Gordon Campbell needs to know that:
    • people will not allow BC children to be put to work with only a parent’s okay!
    • government control of the employment of children benefits children!
    • children need to be protected by government from work and hours of work that are unsuitable for children! 

    BC needs regulations that:
    • really protect children from full-time employment!
    • really protect children unsafe and unsuitable employment! 

    BC needs you to help get for its children the regulations controlling the employment of children; regulations at least equal to what Federal Department of Labor has for children under federal jurisdiction.  Without such regulatory control of the employment of children, BC will become the most child worker friendly jurisdiction in North America.

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