Chilliwack MLA John Martin, the B.C. Liberal labour critic, debates the NDP government’s changes to the Employment Standards Act, May 27, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Greens back NDP restrictions on kids under 16 working

Employment changes spark bitter battle with B.C. Liberals

Kids under 16 will still be able to work in their parents’ store, referee soccer games or help out on the farm as the B.C. government develops new rules restricting them to “light work,” Labour Minister Harry Bains says.

The NDP and B.C. Greens used their bare majority in the legislature to reject a B.C. Liberal bid to keep the minimum working age at 12, which Bains called an international disgrace for the province among international labour organizations.

Bains said the list of jobs that children aged 13 and 14 are allowed to do is being developed, and cabinet will order it via regulations. He was peppered with examples of children sorting clothes in a sporting goods store, picking berries, and babysitting.

“For goodness sake, we train kids as young as 11 to babysit,” B.C. Liberal MLA Todd Stone said. “We say to that 11-year-old, that 12-year-old, ‘Go and take a course. Here’s the course that provides you with the life skills’.”

Delta South B.C. Liberal Ian Paton sparked an angry response when he recounted his youthful job experience on farms. Paton pleaded with Bains to “stand behind this amendment with the South Asian community that know it’s important to keep their kids out of the bad end of town, keep their kids out of gangs and whatnot, to give them the opportunity to work and get a job even at age 12, 13, 14 and 15.”

RELATED: B.C. NDP using ‘sledgehammer’ on contract employers

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B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen called the comments and the B.C. Liberal proposal “disgusting,” and Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley was ejected from the chamber. Paton later withdrew his comments.

“We’re talking about how we need to get this country back to the way it is, make it great again,” Olsen said. “The fact of the matter is that this province has been called a pariah by those around the world for moving the age of work so low.”

B.C. Liberal MLA John Martin questioned the definition of “hazardous work,” which is “likely to be harmful to the health, safety or morals of a person under 16 years of age.”

“What morals?” Martin asked. “Whose morals?”

Bains said it refers to areas involving liquor and adult entertainment, and he is following the conventions of the International Labour Organization.

Asked repeatedly to define “light work” suitable for children under 16, Bains said: “For example, a clerk in an office or a retail store; a delivery person for small goods and merchandise for a retail store, delivering flyers, newspapers, handbills; certain duties in the restaurant food service industry – a host, hostess, cashier, dishwasher, busing tables, a server or waiter providing customer service, assembling food orders and cleaning.”

Bains said the full list of permitted work will be developed in consultation with industries, and cabinet will approve the regulations before they take effect.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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