Thursday, June 27, 2013

Some videos for a summer break

I’ll be taking a bit of break this summer, both to have a vacation and to do some research, so posting will likely be sparse until autumn. To celebrate this break, I thought I would mix things up with today’s post.

While I normally focus on teaching and research in labour relations, I keep my hand in the field by working for the faculty association. This sometimes leads to interesting examples, particularly around how workers react to employer approaches to labour relations. This year, labour relations at Athabasca University have been rather interesting and among the worst I have seen since the retrenchment of the mid-1990s.

The year started with the abolishment of empty positions, a buyout offer and, eventually, a nasty round of layoffs (that is now entering it fourth month!). Overall, the university has dumped about 1 in 7 of its full-time positions in order to address its budgetary problems. Plans for the implementation of a call centre model of instruction will likely result in significant reductions in part-time instructional staff over the next few years, although the university is being coy about that.

At the same time, the university adopted an aggressive position in contract negotiations with the faculty bargaining unit that has resulted in impasse (“Would you like to have an increment “holiday” that would rob you of hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime? No?”). Kind of like this, but without the pizza.

The support staff bargaining unit has had a similar experience. Mediation and (likely) arbitration for faculty will occur in the fall. The university has made pretty plain that, if faculty win a modest salary increase (we were asking for a 2% cost-of-living adjustment) instead of taking the employer’s huge salary rollbacks, then there will be more “bodies in the streets.” On the grievance front, there are a number of serious harassment grievances headed to arbitration or stalled in the (broken) internal complaint process. 

I’m not entirely sure how this approach to labour relations jives with the university’s statement in its Strategic Plan that “We value our employees” (p.5) and its objective to “Attract and retain excellent employees” (p.17). But I’m only a lowly professor of labour relations so perhaps I’m missing something... . 

The upshot has been declining morale and growing frustration among the workers. It is always hard to quantify morale. Mostly what I see is a checking out of staff, who feel both betrayed and vulnerable. I think this video does a nice job of hinting at, functionally, where things are at:

There has been an interesting change in class consciousness at Athabasca. For all of the hype about radical, lefty university types, most faculty members are conservative with little sense of being a part of the working class. That complacency is changing in response to the deteriorating labour relations climate—basically, the veneer that “we’re all on the same side” and "think of the students" is wearing thin. Musically, the question might be summed up as “which side are you one”?

This growing sense of the diverging interests of employers and workers has triggered a variety of actions, both within and outside of the union. The union sought to force (and continues to seek) a change in administration at the university. Other faculty are quietly organizing (likely illegal) job action. An anonymous newsletter lampooning the administration was circulated around campus. And the support staff (who are mostly located in a small, conservative town) are beginning a poster campaign aimed at the provincial government (part of a broader campaign at post-secondary institutions throughout rural Alberta).

Most concerning are the number of folks who have left and/or are looking for work elsewhere. When workers start to flee, it is disproportionately the more talented workers who can get out. All told, it is a very interesting (and rather exhausting) time. The long-term impact of the full-court press the employer is putting on will be fascinating to watch.

So as not leave things on a sour note, I thought I’d finish with one of my favourite video about temporary employment (in this case, of a deposed Emperor).

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, June 14, 2013

Supreme Court weighs in on random workplace alcohol testing

The Supreme Court has released a decision on random alcohol testing.  The SCC upheld an arbitration panel’s decision that random alcohol testing of a group of workers in safety sensitive positions was unjustified. The original arbitration decision is worth quoting at some length to suss out the thinking of the arbitration panel: 
The question is now one of proportionality. What needs to be measured are the benefits that will accrue to the employer through the application of the random alcohol testing policy against the harm that will be done to the employee’s right to privacy. If the random alcohol testing policy is to be justified, these must be in proportion. Here the employer’s scheme gets into heavier weather.  
In a word, on the evidence I heard, I do not conclude that any significant degree of incremental safety risk attributable to employee alcohol use has been demonstrated to exist in this workplace. Taken with the low testing percentages, I believe it is likely that the employer’s policy will seldom, if ever, identify any employee with a blood alcohol concentration over the 0.04% Policy cut-off limit. I therefore see little or no concrete advantage to the employer to be gained through the random alcohol testing policy.  
On the other side of the balance scale, I have to consider the employee’s right to privacy.  Rights to privacy and to the related right of security of the person are important and prized incidents of Canadian citizenship. Reactions to invasions of them tend to be prompt, visceral, instinctive and uniformly negative. When the testing is random — that is, without articulable cause — as it is here, an already high bar is raised even higher. This considerably increases the burden of justification on the employer.  
The invasion of that privacy by the random alcohol testing policy is not a trifle. It effects a significant inroad. Specifically, it involves a bodily intrusion and the surrender of bodily substances. It involves coercion and restriction on movement. Upon pain of significant punishment, the employee must go promptly to the breathalyzer station and must co-operate in the provision of breath samples. As we saw with Mr. Day, there can be an element of public embarrassment. Taking its results together, the scheme effects a loss of liberty and personal autonomy. These are at the heart of the right to privacy.  
On the evidence, the gains likely to result to the employer from random alcohol testing rule run from uncertain to exist at all to minimal at best. The inroads into employee privacy are significant and out of proportion to any benefit, actual or reasonably to be expected to be had by the employer and disclosed by the evidence. The employer has not been able to tilt the balance in its favour and therefore justify the imposition of random alcohol testing as a proportionate response to a demonstrated incremental risk caused by the attendance of employees at work with alcohol in their bodies. I therefore find that the random alcohol testing provisions of the Policy do not meet the KVP reasonableness test, and for that reason are unenforceable. That portion of the Policy therefore must be, and hereby is set aside.
What this means is that the arbitral jurisprudencethat random alcohol testing without cause is an unacceptable breach of employee privacy—continues to hold sway in unionized workplaces. While this will likely be unpopular among some audiences, it seems sensible to me that we wouldn’t give employers unfettered search-and-seizure powers that we don’t accord to more trustworthy groups, such as the police.

This decision will be of significant interest in Alberta, where CEP is currently challenging a Suncor effort to impose random drug testing upon employees in similar circumstances. An injunction has prevented Suncor from going ahead unilaterally and the grievance hearing into this matter is, I believe, still going on.

My guess is that, unless Suncor is able to establish that there is a pressing safety issue that can be effectively addressed through random drug testing, it is likely to face an uphill battle in arbitration.

The scuttlebutt is that Suncor will have difficulty proving a pressing safety issue among the employees in CEP’s bargaining unit. The inability of drug tests to measure impairment and the absence of evidence that random testing is associated with reduced injuries suggests that safety gains from testing will be elusive.

Set against the fundamental invasion of employee privacy and the indignity that accompanies drug testing, these facts suggest CEP may win this arbitration.

-- Bob Barnetson

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Government interference in labour relations undermines trust

Yesterday, the Redford government sacked the Board of Alberta Health Services after the Board affirmed its earlier commitment to honor $3.2m in bonuses to executives. The government is attempting (with some success) to spin this issue as applying the same spending limits to executives as it has forced on other public-sector groups. According to Minister of Health Fred Horne:
At a time when we’ve asked our front-line providers, including doctors, teachers, and support workers to take freezes in pay, the unwillingness of the AHS’ Board to reconsider its decision on pay-at-risk is completely out-of-step with the government’s priorities - and more importantly, the priorities of Albertans.
While I’m not super sympathetic about executive bonuses going unpaid while workers are getting laid off, this intervention looks to be about political damage control and offloading outrage over the state of the health care system.

This decision has significant labour relations implications. What appears to have happened here is that the government has waded into a contractual relationship between a duly appointed Board and its employees and unilaterally changed the terms of the workers’ employment.

At least that is what it looks like—whether the government will in the end have to pay out the bonuses is unclear. Horne is pretty circumspect:
I will further direct the administrator to review the decision made by the AHS board yesterday to award bonuses for 2012-13.
We don’t think it’s fair these bonuses are payable. Our position is clear.
There is, of course, a big difference between thinking bonuses are “unfair” and trying to get away with unilaterally rescinding the provisions of an employment contract.

But back to the labour relations implications. The most obvious is the impact this kind of intervention will have on the ability of the government to recruit top administrators to the public sector. Recall that Alberta sacked former CEO Stephen Duckett two (or three?) year ago in a similar manner. And it recently just steam rollered its 52 elected school boards and forced a contract upon them without consulting them (with the threat of dismissal lurking in the background). And it is refusing to pay out the seemingly legitimate (if somewhat odious) severance owed to a former AHS chief financial officer.  

Anyone coming here to work will want an ironclad parachute and lots of dough upfront.

The more important implication is that the government cannot be trusted to honor its word. Two months ago, Horne noted that it would be inappropriate to interfere in the employment conditions of AHS executives.
Regardless of how people feel about the decision of the AHS board, I don’t think anybody would want me or a colleague to interfere with the terms of their employment they’ve agreed to. It’s a decision for the AHS board.
Then he changed his mind.

This has echoes of the recent prison guard wildcat strike where there was apparently a deal to end the strike that included no retaliation by the government against the guards. With the strike over, the government then retaliated and claimed no such deal ever existed

Alberta employs about 25,000 workers directly and maybe five times that many workers indirectly (through various agencies, boards and commissions). All of these workers have contracts with the government or its appointed minions. Can any of these workers trust the government to live up to its words?

This is more than a rhetorical question.

The government is currently asking workers to take a series of zero cost-of-living adjustments with the promise of brighter days ahead. Yet government promises look pretty hollow these days. In considering whether their membership will accept a deal, unions negotiators have to factor in whether members will view such promises as credible. 

Moreover, employment relationships require a degree of trust among the parties—that each side will ultimately do what they have agreed to do. Sudden and arbitrary changes that simply ignore contractual requirements undermine that trust. If the employer doesn’t have to play by the rules, why do workers?

-- Bob Barnetson

Monday, June 10, 2013

Presentation: Worker Safety in Alberta: Trading Health for Profit

Worker Safety in Alberta: Trading Health for Profit
Bob Barnetson, Associate Professor, Labour Relations
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Athabasca University
Paper Presented at the Canadian Political Science Association 85th Annual Conference, June 6, 2013, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Full Paper Here

Good afternoon. I’m Bob Barnetson and I teach labour relations at Athabasca University. What I’d like to talk about today is how Alberta employers’ disproportionately influence provincial labour policy. I’m going to particularly focus on occupational health and safety (OHS) because, despite a very high level of workplace injury, Alberta has taken virtually no meaningful steps to regulate workplace safety—indeed, there is less regulation now than there was 20 years ago. In my view, this reflects the regulatory capture of Alberta’s OHS system by employers which itself is a manifestation of the political influence of corporate Alberta on labour policy—basically an elite-theory argument. This dynamic undermines workers’ right to safe and healthy workplaces.

Workplace injury in Alberta So let’s start with workplace injury. When the government of Alberta talks injury, it typically says there are 53,000 injuries each year. But a bit of digging reveals that this injury count is, in fact, a count of accepted workers’ compensation claims where workers couldn’t do some or all of their jobs the next day. We call these disabling injuries. By talking only about disabling injuries, the government is understating the true level of workplace injury.

When you factor in claims that required some sort of medical aid, injuries that aren’t reported to the WCB, injuries to those not covered by WCB, and injuries that don’t have to be reported, the true number of injury in Alberta is more like 500,000 per year. And with a workforce of about 2 million, that is roughly one worker in four.

That is an astounding level of injury and it tells us a couple of important things. First, Alberta workplaces are 10 times as dangerous as the government would have workers believe. And second, government injury-prevention efforts are clearly a total failure.

Injury prevention in Alberta Alberta’s injury-prevention efforts don’t work for two pretty simple reasons. First, employers have little chance of getting caught violating the rules. For example, on average, an Alberta workplaces will be inspected once every 14 years.

Second, when employers do get caught, there is no penalty imposed. Most typically, an employer is simply told “fix it”. Prosecution is rare and the employer can usually plead out the case and pay a fine to a community group. The fine is tax-deductable (that is to say it is subsidized by the state) and the community group is often an employer-run safety association (so the fine is paid to other employers).

Not surprisingly, the result is widespread non-compliance and very unsafe workplaces. This allows employers to externalize some of the costs of production onto workers, their families and taxpayers through workplace injury—the very outcome that statutory OHS laws were enacted to prevent.

Alberta’s weak labour movement
When I discuss Alberta’s health and safety system with people in other provinces, the question that most often comes up is how can this possibly be?

A part of the explanation is that organized labour in Alberta is weak, politically irrelevant and is largely excluded from public policy making. Only 25% of Alberta workers are covered by a collective agreement—the lowest rate of Canada. And, in Alberta’s private sector, the rate hovers around 12%.

Alberta’s weak labour movement is the result of what other researchers have characterized as decades of employer-friendly labour law, orginally designed to attract and retain investment by American oil companies. These laws aid employers to resist union organizing by creating well-known barriers to certification such as requiring a vote, no automatic certification when an employer interferes in organizing, no first-contract arbitration, and limitations on the right to strike (or even being a union member).

Additionally, the government frequently intervenes directly to benefit “friendly” unions and punish combative ones, to render illegal effective organizing tactics, and to resolve collective bargaining in ways that benefit the employer which, given the distribution of unionized workers, is often the government itself. By contrast, the government generally refused to intervene in labour disputes characterized by employer intransigence and, in some cases, violence.

For its part, the union movement is largely conservative and internally divided. Further, many Alberta workers don’t see trade unions as useful. Alberta’s energy-driven boom-and-bust cycles mean that workers have substantial individual labour market power during the booms (i.e., they do not need unions). And during the busts, unions have experienced difficulty protecting workers’ interests. Further, Canadian migrant workers often return to their home province during a bust, creating an exit option.

Electoral benefits of repressive labour relations
The other reason for Alberta’s repressive labour relations system is that it benefits Alberta politicians. As I noted, Alberta’s system of labour relations developed during the 1950s and 1960s as a means to attract American investment in the oil industry. Contemporary corporate Alberta is dominated by the energy industry and it continues to exert significant direct and indirect pressure upon the government.

Direct pressure includes financial donations to the conservative party by individual companies and corporate-controlled lobby groups. Recent investigations have demonstrated the corporate Alberta expects favorable labour policy in return for such donations. When the conservative party has not delivered oil-friendly public policy (e.g., around resource taxation), the oil lobby has punished the conservatives by funding the wild rose party.

Indirect pressure is harder to see and has historically centred on the political power of rural Alberta. Previous conservative governments required the support of rural Alberta in order to form government and thus developed a symbiotic relationship with the rural electorate. Government support (in the form of programs and transfers) maintained the viability and infrastructure of rural communities in the face of growing urbanization. Rural communities almost always elected conservative candidates to the legislature and conservative governments ensured electoral boundaries were drawn so there were a disproportionately high number of rural constituencies.

This rural electoral relationship was funded, in large part, by the oil industry. In addition to petroleum revenues, the oil industry drives activity in other sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, automotive sales and servicing, and the service and hospitality industries. Declining oil production, exploration and construction ripples through Alberta’s economy causing widespread job losses and a large reduction in tax revenue. This dynamic gives corporate Alberta a significant lever with which to shape public policy. In this, we see echoes of elite theory—although I’m not entirely sure that elite theory typically recognizes the degree to which corporate elites can dominate political elites.

In any event, one outcome of these dynamics is that the government faces few political threats when it continues a long tradition of privileging employer interests. There are certainly some changes afoot. Rural Alberta is losing population (and thus seats) and the wild rose party has made significant electoral gains in rural southern Alberta. But rather than seeking to construct a centrist support base, the conservatives have veered sharply to the right, including in labour matters. This appears to reflect an effort to regain support that has drifted to the wild rose as well as to appease employer demands for minimal taxation and regulation.

Regulatory capture of OHS
Returning to the issue of workplace injury, there is significant evidence that Alberta’s OHS regulatory system has been captured by employers. There are lots of different views about what regulatory capture means. My view is that regulatory capture occurs when one stakeholder can exert enough influence upon a regulatory body to start imposing costs onto other stakeholders. Here is the evidence I can see:
  • Enforcement: As I noted earlier, the enforcement of existing OHS laws is so weak as to be effectively non-existent. This transfers production costs to workers, their families and taxpayers in the form of injury. 
  • Funding: Then there is the issue of funding. Although it can be hard to see, Alberta’s OHS system is almost entirely funded by employers via transfers from the workers’ compensation board. These transfers are contingent upon the continued good will of the employer-dominated WCB. Bureaucrats privately indicate that they fear this funding would disappear if OHS enforcement became more aggressive. Again, poor enforcement externalizes costs for employers. 
  • Policy Development: Finally we have policy development. Industry-funded safety associations increasingly play a formal role in determining policy and standards as well as performing safety auditing functions. A center-piece of the government’s OHS strategy is the partners in injury reduction system. This system financially incentivizes employers to minimize their workers’ compensation claim costs (which reinforces the WCB’s own experience-rating incentive structure). Incentive systems like this typically result in aggressive claims management rather than safer workplaces which, in turn, transfers injury costs onto workers. Alberta’s system has rebated more than $100m to employers over a decade despite significant questions about its performance. 
Overall, Alberta’s OHS system entails little actual oversight, allows a high rate of injury, is funded almost completely by employers, has standards determined largely by employers and its centre-piece program (partly operated by employers) serves to lower employer WCB premiums even when participating employers ignore OHS orders against them. This regulatory capture of Alberta’s OHS system is one instance whereby corporate Alberta is able to operationalize its political influence.

Workplace injury as a bellwether for democracy
Bringing this paper back to the theme of this panel, one implication of this analysis is that Alberta’s regulatory system appears to undermines basic rights and freedoms associated with democratic societies—such as workers’ right to health and freedom to associate. Such rights and freedoms comprise the main bulwark that workers have constructed against capital organizing work in an injurious manner. This pattern broadly follows Gary Teeple’s analysis of the hierarchy of human rights that predicts social rights are subject to weak (or no) enforcement due to political and economic pressure exerted upon the state by employers as well as conflicts among various human rights.

The government’s unwillingness to enforce worker rights appears to flow from a particular set of political arrangements between corporate Alberta (dominated by the oil industry), the governing conservative party, and rural Alberta. Specifically, the revenue generated from the oil industry has allowed the government to ensure electoral success via public expenditures in rural Alberta. Electoral success has allowed the government to operate ineffective regulatory systems that benefit employers and assure their continued support. In these ways, this case provides some support for the notion that there is a democratic deficit in Alberta, at least partly related to the prominence of the oil industry.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Outgoing Alberta School Boards Association president rebukes government

The Alberta government's imposition of a teacher wage deal has strained relationships between Alberta school boards and the government. Specifically, many Boards were upset that they were effectively cut out of the bargaining process and are now stuck with collective agreements they did not negotiate.

The outgoing president of the Alberta School Boards Association made a stinging speech at the ASBA spring general meeting this morning (the good stuff is in the first six pages). In it, Jacquie Hansen calls out the Redford government for mishandling teacher collective bargaining for years. For the ASBA to publicly call out the government is unusual and reflects how poorly the government has managed this process.

-- Bob Barnetson

Presentation: Incidence of work and workplace injury among Alberta teens

Incidence of work and workplace injury among Alberta teens 
Bob Barnetson, Associate Professor of Labour Relations
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Athabasca University
Paper Presented at the Canadian Industrial Relations Association 50th Annual Conference, May 31, 2013, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This morning I’m going to present some data about the incidence of work and workplace injury among Alberta teens. This data was gathered by the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre, which is a not-for-profit funded by labour groups as well as the Law Society of Alberta.

One of the Health Centre’s activities is delivering theatre-based education about workplace rights to about 15,000 Alberta junior- and senior- high-school students each year. After each show, students fill out program evaluations. And these evaluations provide a useful source of information about the rate of work and workplace injury experienced by adolescents (12-14) and young persons (15-17).

The quantitative data is a convenience sample of nearly 2000 questionnaires from 2011/12 . A larger sample of 6000 questionnaires spanning 2008-2012 was subject to qualitative analysis, although only a minority of these responses contained relevant data. We should be very cautious about generalizing from non-random samples. That said, these results broadly mirror the literature, both in Canada and abroad.

The more prosaic result of the data analysis is that 43.7% of adolescent respondents (12-14) and 61.5% of young person respondents (15-17) reported employment in 2011/12. Those are big numbers.

But lots of kids work—so what?

The key is in the injury data. Of those respondents who were employed, 49.7% of adolescents and 59.0% of young persons reported at least one work-related injury in the previous year.

This is a staggering level of injury—maybe two or two and half times the rate of workplace injury in the overall population. This suggests that Alberta’s complaint-based approach to regulating child labour and occupational health and safety is not effective.

Table 1 outlines the number of reported adolescent injuries by type. The data does not allow us to distinguish between single and multiple instances of a specific type of injury during a year so these numbers likely under-report the frequency of injury overall.

Where specified, other forms of injury included eye, temperature- and animal-related injuries.

Table 2 outlines the number of reported young person injuries by type. Again, this is likely an under-estimation of total injuries because of the way the data was collected.
Where specified, other forms of injury included amputation, eye injury, stress, sexual assault, bullying, and animal-related injuries.

There are very concerning numbers that suggest adolescents and young persons are routinely working in injurious conditions.

When asked, 57% of adolescents reported no hazard identification when the started work and 66% reported no safety training. Young persons were more likely to receive both.

Only 64% of injured adolescents reported their injury. Most injured adolescents (42.8%) reporting the injury to their employer while 13.9% told a doctor and 9.3% telling the WCB.

I often get quite a bit of flak when I point out the consequences of ineffective regulation of adolescent and young person employment in Alberta. Some folks say these jobs and financially necessary and build important employability attitudes and skills.

Certainly there is some truth of those claims. Both is child labour really the best solution to family poverty? And is robotic obedience in mindless jobs for low wages with a high risk injury really the kind of attitudes and skills we want our children to develop? Probably not.

To be fair, the employment of adolescents and young persons has its pros and cons. The issue, in my mind, is whether it is adequately regulated. I think hearing from these workers can help us appreciate what these statistics about injury mean to young workers. So let’s start with some of their stories about injurious work:
I was stuck fencing with a 12-year-old using 5 tonnes of equipment with no way to contact for help. I was the oldest one there. That’s retardedly unsafe. (15-year-old male)

What is disturbing here is that the voice of reasons around workplace safety is a 15-year-old boy. Fifteen-year-old boys aren’t generally known for their good judgment. What were the adults who assigned this work think?

A manager tried to make me clean blood and I refused saying I could contract AIDS potentially. (15-year-old female).

I quit because my supervisors were drinking on the job and leaving me to work the kitchen which I wasn’t legally allowed to be in. (grade-10 female)

I was told to do work after passing out. My supervisor said too bad I had a job to do and I said no, I got fired. (16-year-old female)

I got told by an employee that everyone does drugs and if I told anyone I would not be allowed to work there in future. (14-year-old female)
These circumstances are precisely the kinds of harms contemplated in Alberta’s child labour laws—circumstances that pose physical, intellectual and moral risk. Of particular concern was the large number of written comments regarding sexual and other forms of harassment in the workplace:
I got sexual harassed (by another store associate) recently and my manager didn’t do anything about it. (grade-11 female)

My manager was hitting on me. (female)

When I do my paper route there is a man who is always following and watching me. I went to the (employer) and asked for a different route. (12-year-old male)

Sexual harassment when I was 13 (by employer). The harassment I didn’t realize until a few months ago. (18-year-old female)

The creepyness of guys dropping things so I picked them up and they look at my ass. (grade-10 female)
And here is the one that stops me cold, since I have a nine-year-old daughter.
I was at work and one of the older men followed me to the washroom and tickled me then reached up under my shirt and grabbed my boob. I did nothing because I was only nine, so who would have listened to me. (16-year-old female).
So, she’s nine and she’s working. Likely she’s working in a family restaurant—which is a set of circumstances lots of folks are prepared to give a pass on child labour laws. And she gets sexually assaulted, And, at nine, she knows she has no recourse.

This raises the question of why don’t adolescents and young persons report their injuries?
I burned myself on a piece of metal. (I didn’t report it) because it was my fault. (grade-10 male).

I never reported (the injuries) because I could still work and one time because I was working “under the table” (cash job) so I took a few days off because I couldn’t work. (grade-11 male).

Sexual harassment, bullying, I got my eye cut up. (I didn’t report it because) I was too scared. (grade-12 male)

The guy fired me cause I got sick because of mold. (I told my) mother and she talked to the boss and he fired us. (grade-11 male).

I told my manager (about my injury) but he didn’t do anything about it. (I didn’t report it because) I didn’t necessarily know what to do. (grade-10 male)

(I didn’t report the injury because) my boss said to walk it off and put some ice on it. He fired me the next day. (grade-11 female)

I burned myself on a fry basket and I told a manager right away. They said to be more careful. (grade-10 female).

(I reported the injury to) my manager. She didn’t do anything. She said it took too much work. (grade-12 female)

(I didn’t report the injury because) I’ve learned there’s no point to report things with court etc is bullshit. (grade-11 female)

(I didn’t report the injury because) I thought it would go away but I was wrong. It has been almost 2 years since I quit… and I still have it. (grade-12 female)
Workers also had some useful things to say about the safety training they were and weren’t given.
People should be more aware of the danger of the job and they should be told. You can’t expect them just to know (16-year-old male).
Again, a 16-year-old boy states the blindingly obvious. Yet 57% of adolescents don’t have hazards identified for them and 66% don’t get any safety training. This should cause us to question whether adults are really taking enough care when employing minors.
An actual written procedure about how to clean the grill and deep fryer rather than just “be careful”. (17-year-old male)

I wasn’t trained until 2 years after I (started) work there. I had to figure everything out for myself. (17-year-old female)

(Training would have been better) if someone who was only working there for 2 weeks wasn’t training me. It was like the blind leading the blind. (grade-10 female)
Overall, the data collected by the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre paints a pretty disturbing picture. Teenagers face significant risks in the workplace and there are few remedies available to them. And this adds to the growing literature that suggests complaint-based enforcement of child labour and occupational health and safety laws is not effective at preventing injury among this vulnerable population.