B.C.'s plan to lift restrictions on child labour blasted by teachers

Changes would let children as young as 12 work without involving the province's Employment Standards Branch

British Columbia’s plan to allow employers to hire children as young as 12 is drawing fire from the province’s teachers’ federation.

Under current provincial law, employers who want to hire children under the age of 15 must get permission from the director of the Employment Standards Branch. Under Bill 37, the proposed amendments to the province’s Employment Standards Act, employers would only need a note from a parent or legal guardian to hire children between the ages of 12 and 15.

“Elsewhere in the world, governments are working to eradicate the problem of child labour but the B.C. Liberals are taking our province in the opposite direction,” said Neil Worboys, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. “Children will suffer and their education will suffer.”

Under the new legislation, the teachers said the Employment Standards Branch would no longer regulate child employment nor would it have the capacity to monitor workplaces.

“These changes are clearly designed to benefit employers, not children,” Worboys said. “The will grant business greater access to a pool of young, inexperienced workers who cannot command a decent wage and who will be less likely to stand up for their rights.”

The teachers are also concerned the plan would put pressure on young people — particularly those in low-income families — to put work ahead of school.

“These students will be at greater risk of exploitation on the job or even of dropping out of school because of increased pressure to help augment the family income,” said Worboys.

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