While yahoos party at the Stampede, long-suffering children toil over their brooms and fast-food counters on the grounds. To make sure they don’t toil beyond the legal limit, the provincial government has sent about 20 Employment Standards (ES) officers to conduct random site inspections over the duration of the Stampede.
Alberta Human Services public affairs officer Jay Fisher says most 12- to 18-year-olds employed on the Stampede grounds work in retail or food service stalls.
“Some 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds have been found to be working after 9 p.m. or longer than eight hours per day, and young persons (are) working without the supervision of an adult.... Some employees have been found working in excess of 12 hours in a day,” says Fisher.
The Employment Standards Code makes it clear what kind of conditions adolescents are permitted to work in. Children in Alberta can get a job at 12 years of age, but those under 15 are not permitted to work between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., near dangerous equipment such as deep fryers, cannot serve liquor and must always be supervised by an adult. Those regulations are not always adhered to.
“During a typical day, officers would speak to over 100 employers and employees,” says Fisher. “If violations are found, instructions are provided as to how to correct the situation. Officers will return to the site the next day.”
Fisher says that if an employer continues to violate the code, ES officers can issue a written directive, phone teenagers’ parents, or initiate prosecution. Fisher was unable to say how many people under 18 years of age are employed at the Stampede, but says ES officers are expected to visit all businesses that hire young people and verify hours of work, minimum wage, overtime arrangements and general working conditions. ES officers have been conducting random inspections at the Stampede for the past 10 years.