Child worker act proposed

oddler screen stars need not panic. The Young Worker Protection Act, tabled on Thursday in the legislature by the NDP, would only prohibit child…

oddler screen stars need not panic.

The Young Worker Protection Act, tabled on Thursday in the legislature by the NDP, would only prohibit child acting for infants under the age of 15 days.

The proposed act is a copy and stitch of legislation from British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba.

It was assembled by Douglas Brody, director of policy and planning for the Yukon Federation of Labour.

It’s a work in progress.

Brody and federation president Alex Furlong acknowledged it would probably undergo changes when politicians go to discuss it.

But they wanted to get the word out now.

“We are concerned that we will have a child that will die at work in the Yukon,” said Furlong.

There have been no recent young worker deaths, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Workplace injuries are on the rise and for every 600 injuries there is a fatality, said Furlong.

“I have three kids of my own, and I will not bear any burden for inaction,” he said.

It might be a humble beginning, but concern will grow as people take notice of what’s at risk, said Furlong.

“One fatality is too many,” he said.

An education campaign will help make citizens aware of the act, said Furlong.

“We need the government to step in and offer some minimal amount of protection for children,” he said.

A bipartisan approach is needed, said Furlong.

“This cannot be a political issue,” he said.

Concern about family businesses, rural areas and iconic Yukon industries, like mining, should be brought to the table now, he said.

But a labour shortage is irrelevant to protecting young workers, he said.

The act conforms to current regulations regarding mining, said Brody.

If you’re younger than 16, you’re not allowed to work in a mine.

If you are younger than 18, you’re not allowed to work underground or at the face of an open-pit mine.

Jobs through immediate family members, as well as sitter and paper carriers’ jobs, are exempt from most sections of the act.

And unless you’re at least 18, you can’t work past midnight.

“I don’t think (the act) is necessarily cutting edge, but I think it’s a great start,” said the NDP’s Steve Cardiff, who wants to start discussing the act in the legislature next Wednesday.

Cardiff brushed aside concerns the act would exacerbate the Yukon’s labour shortage.

“I don’t believe that it’s going to put a squeeze on the labour shortage,” he said.

He’s open to changes during the discussion phase.

“If the government or the Official Opposition thinks we should amend this and that we should expand the definition of immediate family, I want to talk about that,” said Cardiff.

“My concern right now is that there is no legislation that protects young workers.”

There were 10 people under the age of 14 hurt in 2007, said Cardiff. There were three in 2006 and there was one in 2005, he added.

In the 15-to-24 age group, 306 people were injured on the job in 2007, while 318 young workers were injured in 2006, said the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Board’s annual report for 2007.

“It’s long overdue,” said Cardiff.

“There’s some kind of legislation in every jurisdiction (in Canada,)” he said.