Last weekend something tragic happened at a Toronto gas station. 44 year old Jayesh Prajapati, an employee at a Shell station was struck and killed by someone fleeing with $122 worth of gas in his tank. That's Jayesh, pictured with his wife Vaishali and son Rishabh.
I didn't know Jayesh, but I knew dozens of men like him when I worked at gas stations in Toronto, many from Sri Lanka, Somalia, or half a dozen other troubled spots in the world. They were my best employees, and all of them were doing what they could to feed and shelter their families. They all had focus and dedication, and while their jobs at the gas stations were stepping stones (hopefully) on their way to bigger and better things, they took their jobs seriously, showed up on time and meticulously completed their chores and assignments. The retail gas business in Toronto would collapse without employees such as these.
It's easy for us to say that $122 is not worth losing your life over. I have never been in the position that Jayesh was. The struggles in my life are laughable compared to what his must have been. I can say with conviction that $122 meant something entirely different to a man like Jayesh than it would to me.
In most of the newspaper articles focusing on this incident the major gas companies, when asked about it, all deny the practice of docking shortages from employees paycheques (which is against the law). To this I say Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit and more bullshit. It is a standard practice and the cowardly oil companies should admit this.
The vast majority of branded sites are leased out to someone else. These "leasees" (there are many different types of contracts) are in charge of employees. The people who work at these stations are not employees of Shell, PetroCanada, Esso, Ultramar etc. etc., they are employees of the leasees numbered company. These leasees are responsible for ensuring that the oil companies get every penny that has passed through their pumps. It is up to the individual leasee to determine how the shortages will be covered, and since they mostly work on almost criminally low commissions, the practice of docking shortages from employee's paycheques is the norm.
While the spokespeople for these major oil companies may technically be correct in stating that they don't deduct shortages from their employees, they are fully knowledgeable about and complicit in the illegal practice of deducting wages from the people who pump your gas or who sit in those kiosks. They can deny it all they want, but everybody turns a blind eye to it. The leasees of these stations (often recent immigrants themselves with half a leg up on their employees), oftentimes don't know much better or have reasons to justify this practice to themselves.
Minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25 an hour. It is very galling to see someone drive off with 25% of your paycheque in their car. I know this, it used to happen to me regularly. It's even worse when they laugh at you and flip you the finger on their way out. I can't imagine how bad it would be if I depended on this money to make ends meet, if I had a wife and child who depended on this income.
The man who killed Jayesh Prajapati is still at large. He doesn't have the balls to turn himself in and start the process of making things right. He can't bring the man back, but he can bring a quicker closure to Jayesh's wife and son. Maybe a true heartfelt apology may mean something. Unfortunately he has some connections to the "McCormick Boys", a laughable little group of man-boys who run around the west end of Toronto pushing drugs and pretending to be gangsters, so he might be in hiding somewhere. They can't be all that "big time" if one of their associates has to resort to stealing gas. Hopefully the turd grows a spine and does the right thing soon.
In the meantime, there's something everybody in Ontario can do about this.
Mike Colle, a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature, said Tuesday he’s working on a private member’s bill he believes would help curb gas theft by forcing drivers to pay upfront.
That's right, it's that simple. They do it in lots of other places. It should be mandated that the gas be paid for before it is pumped.
I really don't care, and nor should you, about how expensive it will be for some retailers to adjust their equipment to make this possible. I really don't care about how inconvenient some people might find it when they have to pay up front. Some things just have to be done. Jayesh Prajapati is not the first gas station employee in Ontario who was killed by someone fleeing with a tankfull of gas, and he won't be the last unless something is done about it very soon. If this had happened to a prominent person's teenaged son or daughter, you can bet that changes would be in the works already.
We shouldn't let Jayesh, Vaishali and Rishabh down. As horrible as this sounds, we should make sure that Jayesh is the last person who dies this way.
Email Mike Colle's office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell him that you support the drafting of his private member's bill. Email your own MPP, and make him/her aware that this bill is being drafted and that you want them to support it when it hits the floor of the legislature. It will take about five minutes of your time.
Lets all make sure that nobody else in Ontario dies over a tank full of gas.