The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has launched a hotline for people to report incidences of gasoline companies taking wages from employees to cover the cost of theft after a Toronto gas station attendant was killed Sept. 15.
Jayesh Prajapati, a worker at a Shell station, was run over when he tried to stop a SUV from taking off with $112 worth of stolen gasoline. Prajapati’s friends told the Toronto Star that he likely tried to stop the thief because he didn’t want to have his wages docked.
The OFL believes many gas stations are committing similar offences, said president Sid Ryan, even though the practice is illegal under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
“We believe that at far too many gas stations in Ontario, after a thief drives off with stolen gas, the company turns around and steals the money back from vulnerable workers,” said Ryan in a press release. “This practice puts workers’ lives at risk and could have played a role in the death of an innocent gas station attendant. We want anyone with information on gas stations ripping off employees to call our anonymous hotline to help identify bad bosses and offending companies.”
In 2005, Grant DePatie, who worked as a gas station attendant in Maple Ridge, B.C., was dragged under a car and killed when a driver fled with $12 in stolen gasoline. The victim’s family fought for change and in 2008 the province made amendments to legislation which mandates the pre-payment of gasoline. The legislation, dubbed “Grant’s Law,” also governs rules regarding late-night workers at retail premises.
Section 13 (1) of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act states, “An employer shall not withhold wages payable to an employee, make a deduction from an employee’s wages or cause the employee to return his or her wages to the employer unless authorized to do so under this section.”
“The legislation was amended and the language is very clear: That where a product or a service is not paid for, that an employee shall not have that amount deducted from their wage,” said Faye Martin of the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice to Canadian Safety Reporter in April.
The Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) has denied any wrongdoing and insists it does not require workers to cover the cost of theft, according to the OFL’s press release.
The OFL’s Bad Gas Rip-Off Hotline is at 1-800-668-9138 and was set up to receive anonymous tips on franchise owners and companies.
“The (hotline) is going to help the little guy push back against wage theft by Canada’s big oil companies,” Ryan added. “If gas companies are telling employees not to intervene in criminal activities then they can’t allow bosses to blame workers for customer theft and illegally dock wages. It renders the policy meaningless and puts tremendous pressure on minimum-wage workers to put their lives in harm’s way to protect their income.”