Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Exploitation of young workers in Saskatchewan

Reproduced below is a back and forth e-mail exchange between me and a young woman (17 years of age) who was being ripped off by her employer. I have edited it slightly to protect her anonymity - at least until she files the complaint with the Labour Standards Branch of the Dept. of Labour.

At the appropriate time, I will be revealing the name of the employer.

It's an embarassment to everyone in Saskatchewan that employers in this province are treating workers this way.

Hey Larry, I got a question for you: I was just wondering if you could tell me if there is any labour standards for being paid "under the table". Like if you are required to get a certain amount, or if you are just taking your chances with the pay that you get, because i think that i am getting ripped off by my employer. Thanks A.

Hi A., Getting paid "under the table" is illegal. It violates the "income tax" act and also labour standards. Who is the employer??? Larry

A: It is an owner of the resturant in (small town). and she said that she is just doing it for the first little bit and then she was to be starting payroll. Would this person be able to take a percentage of my earnings because i wouldnt get it anyways, like on a payroll.

L: That is fraud and theft! She is stealing from you - and she is violating the income tax act, to boot. If Revenue Canada finds out about this they will throw the book at her.

A: What should i do about this?

L: Well, I depends how badly you want (and need) that job. Personally, I think you should report the owner to the Department of Labour. And if you don't want to do it, I sure can.
I would need to know the precise details of what is happening.
- How much are you being paid?
- Is it $5.00 an hour, $6.00 and hour, or what - or is it minimum wage ($7.95)?
- Are you being paid in cash, or by a cheque?
- What is the employer saying about withholding money from you that "you wouldn't get anyway" if you were on the payroll? How much money is the employer not paying? Like, is it a $1.00 an hour, or what?
- How long have you been working there?
- How many hours do you work every week?
- What is the name of the restaurant? And who is the owner?
- If you provide me with these answers, I can file a Third Party complaint with the Department of Labour, and ask them to investigate.
- Is anyone else working there under the same arrangement? If so, Who?
- Any other information you can provide would be very helpful.


p.s. And what happens at the end of the year, when you are supposed to file your income tax. Will the employer be giving you a T4? I doubt it.

A: I dont work there anymore, but i would still like to get the money that they should have to give me.

I got paid 3.65 an hour. Then they told me that they were not paying me for sundays.. no tips. being paid in cash. She said she wasn't paying me 30% of my earnings. i worked there for a month and then she cut my hours back so i didn't get any so i quit. every day except for tuesday thursday... til ten. weekends was alot longer. T. D. a friend you also know .. he is still working there.. .and there is her daughters and one of her daughters friends.

L: Hi A, You should go to the Labour Standard Branch of the Department of Labour at:

3rd Floor, 1870 Albert Street
Regina, Sask.

Tell them that Larry Hubich suggested you should come to them.

You should tell them you want to file a "labour standards complaint for unpaid wages".

Take your calendar with you and any record of the dates you worked and the number of hours you worked. Tell them your whole story.

A: Would the Labour standard branch of the department of labour be able to do something even if it has been like a month since i worked there, or would they stilll investagate it anyways.

L: YES! They will investigate as long as it's not too old. Like a year. GO FOR IT!

If this isn't an iron-clad case for why we need Labour Standards and laws that protect workers rights - then I don't know what is.


Robert S. Porter said...

You have no shame.

I'll leave aside the tax issue and focus on the moral issue.

No on forced this girl to work there. Workers and employers should be able to negociate any deal they want. Even if that means working for pennies.

But it's nice to see you are willing to destroy a business.

Larry Hubich said...


Thank you for participating in this blog.

Please help me understand which laws you are prepared to dismiss.

Is it minimum wage only? Or are there others? Are we to ignore the income tax act? Perhaps the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be ignored?

How about speed limits? Laws respecting assault? Police brutality via the use of a Taser?

If a business will be destroyed by following the laws (i.e. meeting the minimum requirements prescribed by legislation in a modern democracy) then perhaps the business plan that has been prepared is not sound and sustainable.

Surely you can't be serious suggesting that companies should be able to employ children for pennies.

Robert S. Porter said...

Laws do not imply morality.

As a libertarian I do not support many things. That said, one must take a pragmatic approach to resistance to laws. I'm not suggesting that one should not pay income tax because that is just going to cause trouble. I have no qualms, however, with people being paid under the table but obviously this is not practical for the vast majority.

Since I subscribe to J.S. Mill's harm principle I certainly support laws against assault and the egrigious abuse of taser by the muderous RCMP.

I'm not saying that a business is being smart by not paying minimum wage. Certainly that will get you in trouble with the state. Additionally there is a long-standing line of economic reasoning that shows how the minimum wage is harmful to those it pretends to support.

But here's the problem I was addressing. Person A owns a business. Person B wants a job. Persons A and B come together and freely negociate an employment contract. As it happens they negociate a payment of $7/hour instead of the state mandated price. Why is it anyone's business what there agreement is?

In the same way this young girl agreed voluntarily to that price. No one forced her to work there.

Thus, if anyone agrees to work for pennies, let them. As long as the actions are voluntary and not made by someone else (ie parents) then there is no problem.

CarmenT said...

I realize this post and these comments as well as the entire blog itself is somewhat old news.

Nevertheless if anyone should chance upon it as I did and hopefully if you, Mr. Hublich, still post to this when someone is brave enough to submit something (perhaps this is rare and why so long has gone without posts or maybe it is a busy schedule considering your job - either way while it's unfortunate it is therefore understandable) I would like to respond to the asshole who calls himself Robert S. Porter.

"No shame" "No one forced this girl to work there..." "...its nice to see you are willing to destroy a business". With these three quotes I have almost completely quoted RSP's whole first comment. To think that I quoted such pure idiotic crap as his worst excesses and they are almost all of his post is laughable.

1. It is you "RSP" (who is too lame/gutless to even have a proper blogger profile) who has no shame.

2. No one forced this girl to work there. Life forces most people to get some sort of job and if, like you suggest, "Workers and employers should be able to negociate any deal they want. Even if that means working for pennies.", then what is to stop every or at least a large number/majority of companies from doing that. Everybody knows the employer is generally the one with the upper hand. People have to make a living. Employers can if nothing else work for themselves. Should everyone work for pennies like in some third-world country. I repeat, what an asshole you are.

3. "... its nice to see you are willing to destroy a business". Worrying about an inanimate thing over a person tells me alot about you. The argument that businesses provide jobs, which surely comes next, only applies when the jobs a business provides are worth having and allow the people working them to pay bills and have a reasonably decent life. Any business that can be "destroyed" (ooh, scary!) by all those little inconveniences as paying minimum wage and paying for a minimum number of hours per shift scheduled, etc. deserves to be " 'destroyed' in a blazing hellfire that hath no fury".

In conclusion, if I didn't say it enough to fully express my disgust with you as a so called human being, and I don't believe I have, I will say it once again. You, "sir" are a complete and utter asshole!

CarmenT said...

Allow me to correct one thing from my previous comment. I said that the blog is somewhat (actually quite a bit) inactive. I caught a glimpse of your archives when looking to see if my comment posted properly. It was then I realized that the mostly inactive blog was another one of your blogs - the Bad Boss blog. I apologize for the mistake which sadly makes me look kind of stupid. Unfortunate, since it gives laizze-faire capitalist types like RSP an opportunity to dismiss what I believe is a valid, if scorching criticism of his idiocy, self-serving mean-spiritness and general assholery.

Larry Hubich said...

Hi CarmenT,

Thanks for your comment and thanks for participating in this blog. You are correct in that the Bad Boss blog is inactive. I left it that posted needed to be moderated before being posted. That has resulted in virtually no activity because I am unable to devote the necessary time to moderate posts to it.

For all intents and purposes the blog is finished. As a result, I have decided to delete it rather than leave it dormant. Thanks for reminding me it even existed.