Protest urges B.C. law to improve convenience store safety at night

Aim is to have government reinstate parts of Grant's Law, to reduce risks to night workers

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The BCFED is urging the government to require all-night convenience stores and gas stations, such as this one on Burrard Street, to have two workers on shift all night | Rob Kruyt

Activists are urging the B.C. government to require that all-night convenience stores and gas stations have at least two workers on shift throughout the night. 

The calls come despite those businesses struggling to find sufficient staff, and the province hiking the minimum wage more than seven per cent, to $16.75 per hour from $15.65, as of today. 

The British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFED) is readying to hold an overnight sit-in on Saturday night (June 3) at a Circle K location on Commercial Drive to protest the B.C. government in 2012 relaxing parts of a 2008 law that required convenience stores to have two workers on shift at night. 

The protest at 2601 Commercial Drive is a continuation of what were annual sit-ins pre-pandemic.

Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal government introduced what was known as Grant's Law in 2008 in response to a 2005 incident where motorist Darnell Pratt dragged 24-year-old gas station attendant Grant De Patie to his death when Pratt fled an Esso station in Maple Ridge in a stolen car without paying approximately $12 for gas. De Patie tried to stop him.

The original Grant's Law required all-night gas stations and convenience stores to have safety barriers and to have at least two workers on shift all night, in addition to measures such as requiring customers to pay for gas in advance.

In 2012, however, Christy Clark's BC Liberal government modified the law to instead require the stores to have time-lock safes that are not able to be opened in the overnight hours, signs to alert customers that the safes cannot be opened, video surveillance, good lighting and panic buttons. Workers would have to be at least 19 years old, and be required to have limited amounts of cash and lottery tickets on hand.

Customers still needed to pay for gas in advance.

WorkSafeBC in 2012 recommended the changes to both protect workers and enable the businesses to be viable enough to continue to operate. 

“So many young workers know all too well what it’s like to work alone at night, facing the risk of violence," said BCFED young workers committee co-chair George Finley.

"Our government can do something about that right now by restoring Grant’s Law. It’s the simplest measure they could take, but it would make work a lot safer for some of B.C.’s  lowest-paid, most vulnerable workers.” 

gkorstrom@biv.com

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