or, for that matter, the Alberta Human Rights Act? Take your pick!
h/t to Ivan Mulkeen, and to the Edmonton Social Planning Council blog, where this post was just put up:
from the fACTivist, Winter 2009
by Cindy de Bruijn, Executive Director, Gateway Association for Community Living
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (15.1) guarantees that everyone is entitled to equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on mental or physical disability.
Yet Alberta Employment Standards Division 10, Section 67 (1) (a) states that with permission, employers can pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage. It is called the Minimum Wage Exemption, and we should be ashamed that in the year 2009 this is happening in our Province.
Policies such as the minimum wage exemption exist because of the misconception that people with developmental disabilities aren’t as productive as other workers. This fallacy provides a basis for taking advantage of people. It is believed that if a person with a developmental disability can only perform a job at 75%, then he or she should only be compensated at that level. First of all, this conveys the major assumption that just because someone has a developmental disability, they could only perform at a certain level. Furthermore, if we are being truthful, most of us can admit that our performance at work isn’t at maximum potential. We are constantly bombarded with all the distractions of technology like cell phones and Facebook, and others generally have a poor work ethic. However, we are not having our wages garnished based on assumed lacks of productivity.
When you first meet someone, the conversation usually leads to “what do you do for a living?” This is because so much of how we identify ourselves is through our work. Yet there is an entire segment of people in our society that are not being given sustainable work opportunities, simply because employers aware of this this old piece of legislation can use it to their advantage to save money.
How would you feel if you didn’t receive fair compensation for your work? What if you received no sick days or vacation time? How would you feel if you didn’t receive a raise in three years, while your friends, neighbours, and colleagues did? Wouldn’t it be degrading if you were told that you had to train for a job indefinitely?
Here are some real life Edmonton examples, because this happens more than any of us would want to admit:
Mike has been employed for 5 years at a convenience store where he gets along great with his fellow coworkers, has positive job evaluations and a perfect attendance record. His manager’s request to the government to apply the minimal wage exemption has been approved every year and as such Mike earns $1.50 per hour.
Sue works at a sheltered workshop: In a large warehouse, she and a handful of other people with developmental disabilities sit in a separate room and sort the nuts and bolts that accompany the large products that are being assembled. They get paid as a unit, meaning that Sue will typically earn $120 month – for about 80 hours per month
Support agencies will often receive employment contracts or have thrift stores where people with developmental disabilities work. They will do the work as “job training” often for many years with unfair or no compensation. The profits that are raised from these stores or other contracts goes into the bank accounts of the support agencies as general “Fundraising Dollars”, which can be spent however the organization deems best – which is never in providing minimum wage or better to the employees.
In December 2008 the unemployment rate in Alberta was 4.1%, the lowest in Canada. Think about it: Who is the Alberta Advantage for?