A 44-year-old chemist who immigrated to Canada six years ago from India likely never dreamed he would end up working as a gas station attendant. Tragically, that is where Jayesh Prajapati died this week, killed as he tried to stop a motorist in an Isuzu Rodeo from driving away without paying for $112.85 in fuel from a Shell franchise in midtown Toronto.
To better protect such workers, Ontario should consider implementing a mandatory prepayment scheme at gas stations. British Columbia already has such legislation, implemented in 2008 after a man was dragged to death while trying to stop a $12 gas-and-dash. It is called Grant’s Law, to honour the victim, Grant DePatie. Many jurisdictions in the U.S. also have pay-first programs at gas stations.
Mike Colle, a Liberal member of the Ontario Legislature known for his commitment to workplace safety, is to be applauded for his plans to introduce a private member’s bill to curb gas theft by forcing customers to pay upfront.
Gas jockeys occupy one of the lowest rungs on the socio-economic ladder. They are often new immigrants or young students and they work in isolated, physically demanding environments for not much more than minimum wage.
Why should they be left vulnerable to theft and attack – especially when the price of gas is soaring, along with public outrage, and when there is a relatively simple way to curtail the risk to their lives and to improve safety? Some retailers report as many as four incidents a week of customers who drive away without paying for their fuel.
While docking workers’ wages for gas theft is against the Employment Standards Act, and Shell Canada does not require workers to cover the cost of stolen items, the practice nonetheless continues at some gas station franchises. That makes workers even more vigilant about attempting to stop theft.
Premier Dalton McGuinty could show leadership on this issue and introduce legislation to protect the rights of these workers. Call it Jayesh’s law.