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.