The details came out like a plot twist, something unexpected for Civic Service Union 52 president Lanny Chudyk.
“I was quite disappointed when I originally heard what was being proposed,” Chudyk told Global News.
Earlier this week, the union learned students who work as pages for the Edmonton Public Library would face a pay reduction in line with new provincial minimum wage rules which go into effect June 26.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the minimum wage in Alberta.
According to the union contract, the youth are paid based on minimum wage plus a percentage.
“They (EPL), I guess, felt that they were bound under the collective bargaining agreement, which has some language but doesn’t spell out actual numbers,” Chudyk explained.
But days after learning of the changes, a reversal from EPL; student pages will continue to be paid what they’re earning right now.
The library declined an interview request to explain the reason for the flip-flop, instead choosing to release a statement.
In it, CEO Pilar Martinez indicates: “Thank you for voicing your opinions and asking us to find a solution.”
Edmonton-based human resources consultant Allie Knull said businesses and institutions now have to consider a variety of factors when deciding what to set student wages at — everything from the bottom line to employee retention.
“I see that this is a great opportunity for small business owners and not-for-profits to engage the youth into the workforce, saying, ‘We have the budget to bring on more youth,'” Knull said.
She said she wonders about a possible consequence down the road. For instance, a case where a 17-year-old who turns 18 is in line for an automatic wage increase. Could the situation be seen as a liability?
“Are we looking to age them out or not age them out?” Knull asked. “Does that become another human rights concern because ageism is a human right protection?
In the case of EPL, the ending for now is a happy one. But the union is paying closer attention going forward.
“I don’t think anybody ever envisioned standards moving backwards,” Chudyk said.