Co-owner of a family grocery store in Causapscal, Gaspésie, Simon Veilleux counts his 13-year-old nephew Maxime among his employees. With the money earned by preparing sandwiches, the young boy planned to eventually buy an electric moped. However, he may have to give up this project, because his uncle will probably be forced to show him the door.

According to figures from the Ministry of Labor, nearly 90,000 young people under the age of 14 currently have part-time jobs. Bill 19 aimed at regulating child labor limits the minimum age to work to 14 years unless it is notably employed by the family business. But it should not have more than 10 employees. The grocery store Alimentation Causap, co-owned by Maxime’s father and uncle, has 35.

This case is a good illustration of the questions raised during the consultations and public hearings on Bill 19 aimed at regulating child labor which are being held in Quebec until Thursday. Both the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) and the Retail Council of Canada (RCCC) demand that the notion of family business not be limited to 10 employees. . This would allow a young person under the age of 14 to continue working on their parents’ farm or restaurant even if they have around 15 employees, for example. “Family businesses with more than 10 employees are extremely numerous. The number of employees has no impact on the safety of children,” argued Karl Blackburn, President and CEO of the CPQ, during his appearance before the Commission on Economics and Labor on Tuesday. .

For his part, the Minister of Labor, Jean Boulet, behind the bill, for his part, affirmed that the limit of 10 employees was a “unit of measurement” which seemed to him “reasonable” since it allowed a good parental control. “What we want is for the parents to be involved,” he added. With less than 10 [employees], we have greater parental involvement. »

At the other end of the spectrum, unions such as the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) and the Quebec Federation of Labor (FTQ) are concerned and find that the notion of family business is “too broad” and covers “too many sectors”.

In Causapscal, Simon Veilleux, co-owner of the grocery store, would find it “a pity” to have to do without the services of his nephew because of this rule and cannot imagine how he could replace him. “He doesn’t expect to lose his job at all,” he said.

According to the Association of Quebec Food Retailers, several family grocery stores would find themselves in the same situation.

In addition, with some exceptions – family business, non-profit organization, summer camp – companies will have to show the door to their workers under the age of 14, 30 days after the bill is assented to. Results: They might have to desert grocery store aisles or even restaurant dining rooms in the middle of summer.

The bill also limits the number of hours of work per week during the school year to 17. While most organizations, both employers and unions, welcome the government’s initiative and say they are in favor of better supervision, some, such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), are asking that young people under the age of 14 who already have a job can get a waiver to keep their job to avoid “shattering 90,000 dreams”.

“They are already employed. They already have their routine. A young person whose party [de 14 ans] is in September will be caught playing Nintendo in the basement, ”illustrated François Vincent, vice-president for Quebec of the CFIB.

For its part, the CPQ asked the government to wait until September to make the age limit mandatory in order to “get through the summer period”.

The Minister of Labor, however, did not seem willing to grant a delay. “From the moment you prohibit [young people from working] under the age of 14, it still has to come into force at some point. »

Moreover, the unions present at the consultations were unanimous: Quebec’s economy should not rest on the shoulders of young people. They also pointed to the “virtual absence” of supervision in Quebec. The CSN did not hide its concern about the exceptional measures requested by the “employer lobbies”. François Enault, 1st vice-president even criticized them for “thinking about their business model” to the detriment of the good of the child. “The CSN maintains that no business model can or should be based on child labor,” reads the brief submitted by the union during the consultations. The minimum age for access to employment or health and safety rules should never be reduced, nor should the number of working hours be increased, especially not to correct a problem of shortage or scarcity of labor in one or another sector of the economy. »

Hearings will continue until Thursday.