Toronto Star Op Ed: Budget Bill Exposes Interns to Exploitation

Today our op ed was published in the Toronto Star!

Budget Bill Exposes Interns to Exploitation

The federal government’s budget implementation bill is bad news for interns.

The proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code would allow federally regulated employers to “hire” interns for four to 12 months without pay if certain conditions are met. For example, the internship must “primarily” benefit the intern, the employer must “supervise” the intern and the intern cannot “replace” any employee. These conditions are overbroad, unclear and inadequate. They permit employers to extract work from interns by providing minimal training and no remuneration.

The government did get some things right. We are pleased that interns in the federal sector will receive health, safety and other basic workplace protections (that part was a no-brainer). We also agree that unpaid internships may be permissible if done in partnership with a school program, although more oversight is a must. Requiring employers to keep records of their internship programs is a good idea.

Nevertheless, allowing four to 12 month unpaid internships is the wrong approach. Students and graduates would no longer be entitled to pay for many summer and entry-level jobs. Federally regulated employers like Bell Media, Via Rail, Air Canada, TD Bank, Rogers and the CBC would have incentive to cycle through interns indefinitely for free labour instead of providing paid positions.

What’s most galling about these reforms is that essentially all federally regulated employers are capable of paying their interns. These are large, national organizations in the telecommunications, banking and transportation industries. We cannot quite understand why these employers would not have to pay wages while non-profit organizations, start-ups and small businesses are required to pay interns (who are not receiving school credit) minimum wage under provincial employment laws.

Two weeks ago the government released a budget that promised to “strengthen the Canada Labour Code protections for all employees and interns under federal jurisdiction” and “clarify the circumstances under which unpaid internships may be offered.” We watched with cautious optimism, but have been sorely let down. Unfortunately, rather than protecting interns and discouraging employee misclassification, the budget bill would create a broad loophole allowing employers to exploit unpaid labour.

Uncertainty — that is what the proposed conditions allowing unpaid internships outside of school programs create. Interns would be uncertain about their workplace rights while employers would be uncertain about when they are required to pay. Coupled with the lack of proactive enforcement and the Canada Labour Program’s meagre complaints system, the system is ripe for exploitation.

The budget bill’s impact on interns reflects the government’s abdication of its responsibility to support youth in their school-to-labour market transition and perpetuates problematic intergenerational inequities. Canadians deserve better.

Claire SeabornJosh Mandryk and Andrew Langille are with the Canadian Intern Association. You can support their work at www.internassociation.ca

Media inquiries:

Josh: 416 576 1514, josh@internassociation.ca
Claire:  647 528 2348, claire@internassociation.ca

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Our Response: Stephen Poloz’s Comments on Unpaid Internships

This week the Canadian Intern Association has garnered some serious media attention from across the nation.

The debate on unpaid internships has been most recently ignited by Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen S. Poloz. Mr. Poloz’s comments in a press conference on Monday and his House of Commons testimony on Tuesday highlight some of the dangerous thinking that surround internships in Canada.

In response, Association President Claire Seaborn has appeared on BNN, CBC, CTV, Global News and has been quoted in numerous papers speaking out against Poloz comments. Additionally, Andrew Langille, General Counsel to the Canadian Intern Association, appeared on Sun News to debate the topic. Association member Kyle Iannuzzi has also done over a dozen interviews on CBC radio across the country.

Click below to see Seaborn’s response.

Claire Seaborn on BNNClaire Seaborn on BNNCanadian Intern Association on CTV

Mr. Poloz’s comments are indicative of the ignorance and misrepresentation surrounding unpaid internships. Proposing that youth volunteer for free and work unpaid in order to bolster their CV is a dangerous message for the Bank of Canada Governor to promote. His comments encourage employers to advertise and deploy illegal internships and suggest that youth looking for entry level work are not entitled to the minimum wage. Furthermore his comments unfairly mischaracterizes interns across Canada and fails to take into account the role that income inequality plays. Not all interns are able to live in their parents basement and take unpaid work to simply make “business connections”.

The Canadian Intern Association is excited to see this topic enter its way into the national debate and gain some traction among youth and news media alike. Our hope is that this will continue to shed light some of the legal and economic concerns surrounding unpaid internships in Canada.

Stay in touch with the Canadian Intern Association.

Follow Us On Twitter: @canadianinterns

Like us on Facebook: Canadian Intern Association

Below is a full list of the Canadian Intern Association’s reaction to Mr. Poloz’s comments.

Radio

CBC Metro Morning

Television

BNN

CTV

Global News

Sun News

Print

The Globe and Mail

CBC

Adam Seaborn is a Film & Media graduate from Queen’s University in Ontario and a member of the Canadian Intern Association executive. He is currently applying for law school and seeking employment in television and new media.

MP Scott Brison stands up for interns in House of Commons

Member of Parliament Scott Brison stood up for unpaid interns in the House of Commons on Tuesday. During Question Period, he asked the following:

Mr. Speaker, there are 265,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn. Students looking for summer jobs are pressured into unpaid work just to get the work experience. This hurts students and it hurts their middle class parents who are struggling to pay the bills; but instead of tracking unpaid work, the Conservatives continue to ignore the problem. They cannot manage what they do not measure.

Will the new Minister of Finance and the government finally ask Statistics Canada to start tracking unpaid work, so we can actually make the investments to solve this problem for young Canadians and their families?

To watch the video, visit this CPAC page and start at 24:10.

Les entrevues avec Radio-Canada

Certains de nos représentants ont fait des entrevues avec Radio-Canada à travers le pays au cours des derniers jours! Vous pouvez les trouver ici:

Radio-Canada Moncton :

Radio-Canada Acadie : Stages non rémunérés : de plus en plus d’étudiants dénoncent le phénomène & VIDEO (commencer à 12:12) 

Radio-Canada Manitoba : L’actuel

CHOI 1919 à Montréal : 300 000 personnes travaillent gratuitement!

L’Association canadienne des stagiaires est à la recherche des bénévoles francophones pour défendre avec nous et écrire des articles pour notre site. Si vous êtes intéressé, veuillez envoyer un e-mail info@internassociation.ca

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UVic Masters Students Research Unpaid Internships

Isabelle Couture and James Attfield approached the Canadian Intern Association in March 2013 with an idea: to research and write their masters thesis on unpaid internships. Couture and Attfield are both University of Victoria students in the Master’s of Public Public Administration program. Over the past year, we have worked with these students as they developed the Canadian Internship Survey and conducted interviews with interns across Ontario.

Now Couture and Attfield are preparing to release the findings of their study. I am absolutely thrilled that Canadian media has picked up on the importance of issues surrounding internships. An article released Sunday written by Lee-Anne Goodman from The Canadian Press has been reprinted by news sources across Canada:

Stay tuned for the results of Couture and Attfield’s research!