Ontario Ministry of Labour Cracks Down On Unpaid Internships at Two Canadian Magazines

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has begun a crack down on unpaid internships in magazines, beginning with two high-profile Canadian publications – the Walrus and Toronto Life. Following numerous complaints about unfair labour practices and resultantly a visit by a ministry inspector, the magazines have been told to immediately end their internship programs.

Effective Monday, Toronto Life will have to let go of (or pay) five interns, who are not in school and thus, do not meet Ontario’s employment standards for unpaid work. Going forward, both publications will be expected to pay interns who are not receiving school credit for their work, or not have them around at all.

It has been revealed that this crackdown is just the beginning of an anticipated blitz, which will have every ministry inspector targeting magazines in Ontario – one of many areas that has relied heavily on unpaid internship programs.

The Canadian Intern Association would like to applaud former Minister of Labour, the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, for spearheading this much needed enforcement in Ontario. We strongly encourage other provinces and territories to follow suit to stop the misclassification and exploitation of interns.

Additional reading on the Ministry of Labour’s crackdown can be found at the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Canada.com, Canadian Business and Canadian Magazines.

 

We are fighting Bell Media and need your help

Have you done an internship with Bell Media? Do you know someone who has? We are calling on all former and present Bell interns to e-mail us at info@internassociation.ca.

You can ask to remain anonymous or tell us who you are. We want to know about your experience as an intern at Bell, including (but not limited to) those who have done the Bell Professional Management Program.

We need help from interns for a case against Bell Media.

Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern with the Bell Professional Management Program. She eventually left the program because she felt the interns were replacing paid staff members and entitled to at least the minimum wage for their work. Patel filed a complaint with the Canada Labour Program. After conducting an investigation, the inspector Liela Handanovic rejected the complaint and found that Bell was not required to pay her wages.

Patel has appealed the decision and Dewart Gleason LLP has agreed to take the case on pro bono. This summer a Referee Hearing will take place to determine whether Patel was entitled to wages and whether Bell Media is required to pay their interns.

To learn more about Patel’s case, see:

Ontario Labour Minister Tables Bill To Protect Precarious Workers, Including Unpaid Interns

Today Ontario Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi tabled the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013 (full document at the end of this post), which amends five statutes relating to employment and labour relations and will protect precarious workers, including unpaid interns.

Under the proposed legislation, new protections are afforded to high school, university, college and co-op students, and interns (trainees), and amend current stipulations regarding filing claims for unpaid wages. We’ve broken down what the new labour legislation would mean for young people who find themselves in any of these forms of precarious employment below.

Listen to Claire Seaborn discuss the bill on News Radio 919 McLean in the Morning:

NEW PROTECTIONS UNDER OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT

  • Schedule 4.1.1 – 4.1.5 of the proposed legislation, broadens the definition of ‘worker’ to include co-op, high school and university/college students, as well as unpaid interns.
  • By broadening the definition of ‘worker’ in this way, employers would be responsible and held to account for their employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. More importantly, these young people would have equal protections under the act as other workers.

AMENDMENTS TO REGULATIONS REGARDING FILING CLAIMS FOR UNPAID WAGES

  • Schedule 2.6.1 – 2.6.4 of the proposed legislation would increase the current time limit allowed to file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour for unpaid wages from 6 months to 2 years.
  • With more time provided to file a claim, unpaid interns also have more time to collect necessary documentation for claim submission, and seek advice if necessary.
  • Under Schedule 2.5.4 of the proposed legislation, Section 103 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 would be amended to remove the $10,000 maximum cap on unpaid wages.
  • By removing the cap on unpaid wages, this would create a clearer route for claimants who are entitled to minimum wage to receive the total amount owed.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO ENFORCE EXISTING EMPLOYMENT LAWS

  • Finally, it is likely that this new legislation will come with additional resources to enforce existing employment laws, and hopefully transition towards a proactive approach of holding employers accountable and maintaining young workers’ rights.

We here are the Canadian Intern Association are ecstatic that the Ontario government is taking action and responding to the plight of young workers and unpaid interns in the province. This is a HUGE victory for our movement in Ontario and we thank all those who have joined us in lobbying the government and those who have kept the conversation going. We hope to see other provinces and territories follow this example and take similar efforts to change their employment laws.

Check out the full document – Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013

Our Response to a Letter from Ontario Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi

Yesterday the Canadian Intern Association received a letter from Ontario’s Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi. Our sources tell us that a few other individuals and groups with aligned interests received the same letter.

The letter mostly just summarizes the law on unpaid internships that we are clearly already well aware of. The interesting part is the second last paragraph, which reads:

As part of the 2013 budget, the government is investing an additional $3 million annual to hire additional officers and staff to provide more proactive inspections, beginning in 2013-2014. This brings the government’s total investment to $7.5 million since 2009. The funding will be used to hire 20 new members of a dedicated enforcement team, and by 2014-2015, these officers will conduct an additional 1,400 inspection a year.

It appears the Ontario Legislature and Ministry of Labour has actually decided to invest some resources into this issue! Funding for proactive enforcement is certainly a step in the right direction, but don’t feel fooled by the numbers. The Ministry will hire 20 new enforcement officers, but those people will be enforcing employment standards for a variety of matters in the province, not just unpaid internships.

In fact, there is still no system for reporting unpaid internships, except by the intern for unpaid wages after the internship is already over. This system places too heavy a burden on interns to work for long periods of time unpaid in the hopes that the Labour Relations Board will Order their employer to pay up. Many interns will not even file a claim because they are worried about not getting a good reference or how they will be perceived by future employers.

We would like to thank Minister Naqvi and his staff for preparing this letter and showing some effort on addressing this issue. Despite this, next year there will likely still be tens of thousands interns working for free in Ontario when they should be receiving at least the minimum wage.

If you are an intern in Ontario and would like to receive minimum wage from your employer for the hours that you worked in your unpaid internship, check out our Claim Back Your Pay page.

http://www.internassociation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Letter-from-the-Minister-of-Labour.pdf

MP Andrew Cash joins the fight against unpaid internships

In today’s Question Period the Honourable Andrew Cash (MP for Davenport, ON) raised the issue of precarious employment and unpaid internships. Cash noted that there are many reputable internship programs in Canada wherein profitable companies have turned to the exploitation of young workers.

With recent graduates carrying an average student debt load of $28,000, Cash noted that an increasing number of these young people are required to work for free before finding paid work in their field. Cash called out the government for turning a blind eye to the misuse of unpaid internships by Canadian companies as youth unemployment worsens.

Finally, Cash stated that the issue of unpaid internships is but one reason that the MP will be tabling an Urban Worker Bill that will among other things, call on the government to crack down on the misuse of unpaid internships. He concluded by urging the government to finally take the issue of youth unemployment in Canada seriously and asked for its support for the Urban Worker Bill.

We here at the Canadian Intern Association would like to say a huge thank you, to the Honourable Andrew Cash for joining us in the fight against illegal unpaid internships. Further, we look forward to working towards next steps collectively following Claire Seaborn’s meeting with you last Friday.