From the QP Briefing: Andrew Langille dismisses Plan for mandatory co-op dismissed as ‘unworkable’

The article below appeared in the QP Briefing, a publication covering Ontario politics, and features the Canadian Intern Association’s General Counsel, Andrew Langille.
June 28, 2016
Plan for mandatory co-op dismissed as ‘unworkable’ by labour lawyer
By Sabrina Nanji

Last week’s report from the government’s workforce expert panel calls for students to complete work experience programs, but fails to map out the “billions of dollars” it will take to implement, says youth and labour lawyer Andrew Langille.

A plan to make co-op and work experience placements mandatory for Ontario’s high school, college and university students is being shrugged off as a pipe dream by a prominent labour and youth lawyer.

Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based lawyer who focuses on the school-to-labour market and serves as general counsel to the Canadian Intern Association, has dismissed an Ontario panel’s report recommending mandatory co-op and subsequent governmental aspirations as “unworkable.”

“It’s a non-starter … There’s a lot of what-ifs,” Langille told QP Briefing. “What I do see is a lot of buzzwords being repeated, but in terms of a concrete plan, it just isn’t there. It seems to be a waste of money from what I can tell.”

As suggested in last week’s report from the premier-appointed Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, Ontario should be forking over cash for work experience or co-op placements for all high-school students, and another for those in college and university. That would include traditional (engineering and skilled trades) as well as non-traditional (liberal arts) career paths. The panel also recommended improving access to better labour market information, and to establish a “planning and partnership table” under a newly created government “workforce planning and development office,” to implement the plan.

Whereas Premier Kathleen Wynne indicated her intent to adopt the recommendations, Langille is skeptical about a lack of a roadmap – and therein lies the rub. Without a detailed plan, the plan has little chance of becoming a reality, he said. For one, making co-op mandatory would take “billions” that the province – with projections currently forecasting a $5-billion deficit and net debt expected to rise from the 2015-16 fiscal year’s $296 billion – simply doesn’t have.

“To ensure high quality sustainable placements there needs to be some level of funding, and for every student, that would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of billions of extra dollars injected into the system to set up the necessary infrastructure – that’s not going to happen,” Langille said.

He cited the University of Waterloo, which operates the most comprehensive co-op program in the country, with nearly 20,000 students enrolled over three semesters (two in the classroom, one on the job), and involves more than 6,000 employers. Even at the best of times, Langille said the institution struggles to find a co-op job for everyone.

“Bringing in 50 or 60 other institutions on line to deliver students good high quality placements, again, I don’t see it being workable,” he said.

Of particular concern is the makeup of the panel itself, whose members were comprised of business and education experts. The report cites and also bears resemblance to a previous one from the Business-Higher Education Roundtable (made up of university and college heads and corporate executives), which earlier this month also recommendedmandatory work experience programs for post-secondary students.

Both reports take the view that people are commodities – the government’s panel itself refers to students as “human capital” – and, despite consultation with organized labour and student groups, leaves out input from those key players from the final recommendations, Langille contends.

“One really wonders why only a narrow business oriented viewpoint is reflected … business is but one stakeholder in a larger discussion,” he said, adding: “What’s clear to me is that this whole system of work integrated learning in Ontario is broken to a certain extent, and I don’t see any acknowledgement of that in the panel’s report.”

Instead of pursuing the panel’s findings, the government should instead address the labour market itself, particularly precarious work, according to Langille. The Ministry of Labour has hinted it would indeed include precarious and temporary work in its ongoing Changing Workplaces Review, which will reform the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act. The review is due to conclude later this year.

For now, the government has maintained that its panel recommendations serve as one way to address a skills gap in the market. Langille counters that gap “doesn’t exist.” The panel falls somewhere in the middle. It acknowledges there was scant evidence to support fears of a wide ranging lacking, rather Ontario’s job landscape reflects pockets of discrepancies depending on region and sector.

“No single solution or stakeholder would be able to close this gap,” the report noted.

The expert panel was appointed last December and included chair Sean Conway, who was education minister and minister of colleges, universities and skills development during the David Peterson era, Carol Campbell, who has been an education adviser to the Wynne government, Robert Hardt, president and CEO of Siemens Canada, Alison Loat, co-founder of the charity foundation Samara, and Pradeep Sood, chairman of Highbury Canco Corp., a food processing company.

To contact the reporter on this story: 

snanji@qpbriefing.com

Shocking Results from Ontario Blitz

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that they have collected nearly $140,000 in wages for interns in workplaces across the province. These are the results from the Ministry’s recent inspection blitz where employment standards officers visited 123 workplaces believed to have internship programs and investigated whether interns were entitled to minimum wage and other employment standards such as public holidays and vacation.

Out of the 77 workplaces that had interns:

  • 18 employers (almost 25 per cent) did not meet the requirements under the Employment Standards Act (ESA)
  • 18 employers (almost 25 per cent) had paid interns and were in compliance with the ESA
  • 41 employers (more than 50 per cent) were found to have intern programs that were exempt from the ESA

The blitz found $140,630 in wages that were owed to interns, and since that time a total of $138,731 has been recovered. This includes:

  • $85,968 in owed wages voluntarily paid by 13 employers
  • $52,763 in owed wages recovered by the ministry through orders issued to four employers

ontarioMOL

View the press release here: https://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2016/04/ontario-recovers-thousands-of-dollars-owed-to-interns.html?_ga=1.140820916.724553754.1433856196

View the full report here: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/inspections/blitzresults_intern2016.php

Questions? Interviews? Email claire@internassociation.ca, josh@internassociation.ca

 

We’re Making a Know Your Rights Guide for Interns and Young Workers – Can You Help?

As part of our ongoing commitment to public legal education and improving the workplace rights of interns, we’re making a ‘know your rights’ guide for interns and young workers – the Canadian Intern Rights Guide.

The Guide will be a powerful tool for interns to learn, enforce and improve their rights at work, but we need your help to make it a reality.

Can you chip in $25 or more to help with our printing costs? We are committed to ethical sourcing and printing the Guide at a union shop, but we are a not-for-profit with a shoestring budget. We need help from our supporters and allies to make the Guide a reality.

As recognition for your generous support, if you make a donation of $25* or more to the Canadian Intern Association between November 1st and December 31st 2015, we will send you a complementary copy of the Canadian Intern Rights Guide when it’s printed in early 2016!

Better yet – do you know a young worker who could use a copy of the Guide? Simply provide their name and address in the “purpose” section of your Paypal donation of $25* or more, and we’ll send them a complementary copy of the Canadian Intern Rights Guide!

Donate now, and help make the Canadian Intern Rights Guide a reality!

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* $25 or more includes shipping within Canada. For shipping outside of Canada, we ask for a minimum donation of $35 to defray the increased shipping costs.

Co-Op Student’s Death Highlights Gaps in Workplace Protections for Young Workers

PRESS RELEASE

September 29, 2014

Co-Op Student’s Death Highlights Gaps in Workplace Protections for Young Workers

Toronto – Last Friday, high school co-op student Adam Keunen died in a workplace accident in West Lincoln, Ontario. This is the third death of a student engaged in a workplace training program in Ontario over the past ten months. Members of the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of these young workers. We also urge that every action be taken to ensure that tragedies like this are not repeated.

Over the past decade work-integrated learning has emerged as a key part of Ontario’s secondary and post-secondary education system. Currently, students engaged in unpaid work-integrated learning programs are not covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Additionally, students only receive protection under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) under certain conditions.

These exclusions have real implications. As Amanda Moore reported in the Grimsby Lincoln News, the exclusion of co-op students from OHSA meant that it was the Niagara Regional Police that led the investigation into the workplace accident, rather than the Ministry of Labour, who normally investigates such incidents.

To close these loopholes, the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams call upon the Ontario government to bring co-op students and interns under OHSA by passing Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn’s Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, and to grant them other basic workplace protections under the ESA by passing MPP Peggy Sattler’s Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers Act.

More broadly, these tragic incidents necessitate that the Ontario government undertake a fulsome review of co-ops, academic internships and experiential learning programs to ensure the safety and well being of students and young workers is being protected. This type of review is not without precedence in Canada as the Government of Alberta launched a similar review in the wake of death of Andy Ferguson, who died while completing an academic internship at a radio station.

In the weeks ahead, both the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams will be putting forward solutions that can improve workplace safety for students and give them critical protections while engaged in the school to work transition.

Download the PDF of this press release by clicking here

Media Contacts:

Claire Seaborn, Canadian Intern Association:
(647) 528-2348, claire@internassociation.ca

Josh Mandryk, Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams:
(416) 576-1514, joshua.mandryk@mail.utoronto.ca

Media coverage:

 

Ontario bill introduced that would protect unpaid interns

Today a press conference introduced MPP Peggy Stattler’s Bill 22, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers), 2014.

The bill was first introduced by Davenport MPP Jonah Schein last March (details here), but unfortunately was not reelected in the most recent Ontario election. The Canadian Intern Association is very pleased that MPP Peggy Stattler has chosen to re-introduce the bill, which would:

  • Grant unpaid interns more protections under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, such as regular work day, eating periods, and holidays
  • Require employers to provide written notice to the Ontario government when they take on unpaid interns. This would assist the Ministry of Labour with data collection and enforcement.
  • Create a complaint system that allows complaints to be submitted by third parties and interns anonymously
  • Require employers to post a poster with information about intern’s rights in Ontario in the workplace prepared by the Ministry of Labour

Peggy Stattler is the MPP for London West and NDP Critic for Training, Colleges & Universities and Research & Innovation. Also in attendance at the press conference is Andrew Langille (www.youthandwork.ca) and Joshua Mandryk (www.payyourinterns.ca).

Watch the full press conference here: