Backlash against unpaid internships growing in Canada, called 'exploitation'


SLM
+2
#1
Backlash against unpaid internships growing in Canada, called 'exploitation'

By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – 19 hours ago




OTTAWA - Nicholas Smith is a 22-year-old Torontonian, working on his second unpaid internship after graduating from the University of Toronto last year with an ethics degree.
Working without pay for months — and sometimes years — after graduating triumphantly wasn't exactly what Smith and his friends had in mind when they toiled away along the path to what they believed was a bright future.
"I am working with people who've done their masters degrees, and definitely there's an emotional toll in having to work for free," said Smith, whose current unpaid internship is at a Toronto-based think-tank as a foreign policy analyst.
"I used to do marketing and there are a couple of marketing companies that are absolutely notorious — they have marketing graduates working 50-hour weeks and overtime without pay, and if you refuse to work the OT you don't get a reference," he said.
"And no one is picked up anyway at the end of the internships. It's just exploitation."
Unpaid internships are on the rise in Canada, with some organizations estimating there's as many as 300,000 people currently working for free at some of the country's biggest, and wealthiest, corporations.
The ranks of unpaid interns swelled in the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession, said Sean Geobey, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the author of a recent report entitled The Young and the Jobless.
Geobey says Canadians are starting to sit up and take notice.
"This is not the sort of social contract that today's kids saw their parents and grandparents grow up under," he said.
"We're starting to see Canadians — young people and their parents in particular — seriously question what exactly is going on here, and why are we apparently returning to 19th-century labour practices."
Last fall, Vancouver's Fairmont Waterfront Hotel sparked an uproar after it posted an ad seeking people to bus tables for free.
"As a busperson you will take pride in the integral role you play in supporting your food and beverage colleagues and 'setting the stage' for a truly memorable meal." The ad was quickly taken down amid a social-media furor.
The United States is in the midst of a crackdown on unpaid internships by both state and federal authorities. In Canada, there's a growing backlash, with a rally held last week in Toronto urging the Ontario government to do something about "unpaid internship scams."
Federally, the NDP's Andrew Cash tabled a private member's bill last fall aimed at cracking down on what he calls "the Wild West" of illegal unpaid internships. He says what used to be entry-level positions paying minimum wage are now routinely morphing into unpaid internships.
"There's a hodgepodge of laws across the country and in some provinces there's simply no regulation at all," Cash said in a recent interview.
"And not only are we talking about young university graduates having to work for free, but also newcomers to the country who are desperate for Canadian work experience and are resorting to working without pay."
An official at the federal Labour Department says there are laws on the books to protect interns. Under the Canada Labour Code, a department inspector will investigate a federally regulated employer if a complaint is filed for unpaid wages, overtime and vacation pay.
"If it's determined an employer-employee relationship exists between interns and the employer, their rights will be protected as an employee," the official said in a recent email.
Nonetheless two academics working on a comprehensive study of unpaid internships in Canada scoff at those laws, pointing out that they require a young employee who's trying desperately to establish a career to rat out a possibly powerful corporation — and potential employer.
"There aren't enough people coming forward, because there's a huge disincentive to do that," said Isabelle Couture, a graduate student who's conducting a survey of unpaid interns with the Canadian Intern Association to determine the scope of the problem in Canada.
"To go against your employer, you're fearing being blacklisted. You want the experience and you want the reference and feel you have no other choice but to keep quiet."
Couture and her partner in the research, James Attfield, say that as they prepare to release their study next month, they've been stunned to learn that no federal or provincial agency is tracking unpaid internships.
"When you ask a lot of these companies, like Bell — which has a massive internship program — they make it sound like they're doing people a favour, that they're generously providing work and experience," says Attfield.
"But it's really nothing more than a way to save money; they're obviously not doing it out of generosity."
A Bell spokeswoman says its internship program, which employs about 300 people a year, "offers learning opportunities in a real-world corporate setting. None of the participants' activities replace work by Bell employees or support our business operations."
But Attfield and Couture, who are both working toward master's degrees in public administration, point out that unpaid internships pose an array of social and economic problems.
They give the children of well-heeled parents an advantage over those with no one to support them if they want to compete with their peers for valuable CV references by working for free, they say.
They also contribute to youth unemployment rates, and prevent young Canadians from fully participating in Canada's economy.
"It's so short-sighted, because these companies are withholding pay from people who might be able to pay for their goods and services and to contribute economically to society," said Attfield.
"There's a cost to everyone as a result of these internships — to the employees who don't get paid, to their parents, to the economy — at absolutely no cost to the companies."
Geobey says it all represents a startling throwback to another era.
"This is what union organizers faced prior to the First World War. There's the threat of blacklisting, the threat that their skills are not going to be used because the employer will call them troublemakers for wanting to be paid for their work."
Smith, the 22-year-old intern, isn't quite as contemptuous, saying he's grateful for the experience he's currently getting from his unpaid internship.
"I can't say that I've got job prospects, but the networking opportunities have been really helpful."


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The notion of unpaid internships is not necessarily a bad one, but left unchecked and without any sort of parameters I can definitely see where it would get out of hand easily. What is the expression? A few rotten apples.....
 
captain morgan
+1
#2
Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

The notion of unpaid internships is not necessarily a bad one, but left unchecked and without any sort of parameters I can definitely see where it would get out of hand easily. What is the expression? A few rotten apples.....

Some industries are already notorious for their practices in their mainstream operations.

Setting rules for interns will probably result in those companies simply not offering that avenue any longer
 
Walter
+1 / -2
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Some industries are already notorious for their practices in their mainstream operations.

Setting rules for interns will probably result in those companies simply not offering that avenue any longer

Regulate something and you get less of it.
 
SLM
+2
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Some industries are already notorious for their practices in their mainstream operations.

Setting rules for interns will probably result in those companies simply not offering that avenue any longer

If those companies are just going to exploit it anyway, is that a bad thing?

I'm all for offering experience in an unpaid setting, it can indeed be very valuable. But it has to be reasonable. How many times have we heard over the past year of young interns who literally worked themselves to death? Two? Three? Now, I am not saying the companies are solely to blame for that, not by a long shot, but big carrots dangled in front of desperate people equals exploitation.
 
captain morgan
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

If those companies are just going to exploit it anyway, is that a bad thing?

In a way it is.

In all likelihood, those students wouldn't get a second look to begin with.

What this practice really says to me is that the market for hiring people in that industry is competitive and perhaps not a lot of motivation to hire a greenhorn when there are experienced individuals available.

Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

I'm all for offering experience in an unpaid setting, it can indeed be very valuable. But it has to be reasonable. How many times have we heard over the past year of young interns who literally worked themselves to death? Two? Three? Now, I am not saying the companies are solely to blame for that, not by a long shot, but big carrots dangled in front of desperate people equals exploitation.

The intern also has to take a proactive position and understand that the internship serves 2 general functions. Getting a little experience and also a (potential) foot in the door.

If the intern accepts a position for a few months and then leaves on good terms, there is a better chance of moving across the street and getting another position (paid or intern) that will allow them to expand the base of experience.

All that said, if their market is already saturated with (unemployed) individuals that have experience, the deck is stacked against the new grads to begin with
 
lone wolf
+3
#6  Top Rated Post
Learn the ropes and corporate tricks - then get a job with the competition. Treadmills are easy to figure out. Not so easy to get off.
 
Tecumsehsbones
+3
#7
I think it's hysterical. Rich kids with advanced degrees doing grunt work for free.

No wonder the companies don't hire them after their internships. Who'd want an employee that dumb?
 
captain morgan
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

I think it's hysterical. Rich kids with advanced degrees doing grunt work for free.

No wonder the companies don't hire them after their internships. Who'd want an employee that dumb?


Doctors go down that road for many years.

They idiots too?
 
Tecumsehsbones
+2
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Doctors go down that road for many years.

They idiots too?

No, but anybody who thinks medical internships are unpaid might could be. The kind of idiot who thinks that just because they're both called "internships," medical and business internships just gotta be the same thing.
 
captain morgan
#10
Sorry, a few bucks as a stipend is a real dream come true... But according to the earlier observation, they must be idiots

Real motivation for the specialists that have to go through that system for even more years, eh?
 
Tecumsehsbones
+3
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Sorry, a few bucks as a stipend is a real dream come true... But according to the earlier observation, they must be idiots

Real motivation for the specialists that have to go through that system for even more years, eh?

Here's a little bit of advice from me to you: when you're in a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

Do Surgical Interns Earn Money? | Chron.com

http://www.healthcare-salaries.com/p...ernship-salary
 
captain morgan
#12

http://www.vnews.com/news/healthcare...ern-work-hours
Flavio Casoy vividly remembers one of his scariest moments as an intern: On duty at a San Francisco hospital for nearly 29 hours

29 hours straight... What a dream come true!

In July 2011, after more than two decades of impassioned debate, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education reduced the maximum allowable shift for the least experienced doctors from 30 straight hours to 16

So, let's see. At $45-50k a year, that's - wait for it - 2 just-above-minimum-wage jobs... After paying their student loan contributions, why, they can spend the remainder of their day shopping for yachts and islands in the Caribbean

Like I said, it's a stipend (I emboldened the important word for y'all)
 
Tecumsehsbones
+2
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

[I]

So, let's see. At $45-50k a year, that's - wait for it - 2 just-above-minimum-wage jobs... After paying their student loan contributions, why, they can spend the remainder of their day shopping for yachts and islands in the Caribbean

Like I said, it's a stipend (I emboldened the important word for y'all)

Interesting. So 45K a year for an 80-hour workweek (the cap in the U.S.) = $11.25 per hour. Minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour.

Faith-based arithmetic.
 
captain morgan
+1
#14


Good try though... Actually, kinda sad, really
 
taxslave
+1
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by WalterView Post

Regulate something and you get less of it.

True but that is not always a bad thing.
 
Tecumsehsbones
+1
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post



Good try though... Actually, kinda sad, really

No, sad is calling 165% of minimum wage "just above minimum wage."

And remember, all this was in aid of your claim that medical internships are unpaid.

You must be halfway to China by now.
 
captain morgan
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

True but that is not always a bad thing.

In this case, there may be more downside than upside

Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

And remember, all this was in aid of your claim that medical internships are unpaid.

In response to the interns being idiots


Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

You must be halfway to China by now.

Seeing how you'll be there first, I hope you had the foresight to make reservations
 
taxslave
#18
The kid in the OP has a degree in ethics. That does not even qualify him for a job pumping gas at a self serve without training. Other than mailboy there is next to nothing he could do in a corporate setting without some work experience. For an unpaid internship to work properly there has to be some kind of a job guarantee at the end and a specified length of time. I would say a month is long enough in most places.
Unpaid internship in a restaurant is just exploiting the poor.
 
darkbeaver
+2
#19
Unpaid interns are apprentice slaves for Same Old World Order.
 
captain morgan
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

The kid in the OP has a degree in ethics. That does not even qualify him for a job pumping gas at a self serve without training. Other than mailboy there is next to nothing he could do in a corporate setting without some work experience. For an unpaid internship to work properly there has to be some kind of a job guarantee at the end and a specified length of time. I would say a month is long enough in most places.

Ethics is a toughie in terms of landing something on a kinda guaranteed basis.

That said, I do know that there are a lot of universities and colleges that organize internships with local companies to help grads get some kind of exposure and experience

Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

Unpaid internship in a restaurant is just exploiting the poor.

I never would have thought that a restaurant internship existed... Maybe in a higher-end place for the cooks, sous-chefs, etc.
 
Tonington
+3
#21
Probation. If the employee works out, they get a job. And they get paid for the work they do while they're there. Internships are being abused, no question about it. Its free labour.
 
taxslave
#22
The Fairmont hotel was the first one I heard of but apparently it is happening elsewhere in restaurants that can afford to pay staff.
 
Tecumsehsbones
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslaveView Post

Unpaid internship in a restaurant is just exploiting the poor.

Isn't it actually exploiting the rich? I mean, how could a poor person do an unpaid internship at all?

I'd like to think that most poor folk have too much sense to work for free.
 
captain morgan
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

Probation. If the employee works out, they get a job. And they get paid for the work they do while they're there. Internships are being abused, no question about it. Its free labour.

Lots of University organized internships that are by large companies that don't need to provide that program.
 
SLM
+1
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

In a way it is.

In all likelihood, those students wouldn't get a second look to begin with.

Maybe they shouldn't get a second look to begin with then. If a person makes poor educational choices, they have to live with that.

Quote:

What this practice really says to me is that the market for hiring people in that industry is competitive and perhaps not a lot of motivation to hire a greenhorn when there are experienced individuals available.

In the beginning, I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly, but I think the problem is that this notion is trending now. So you've got industries where normally an internship really isn't warranted but they're doing it anyway. Those are the ones doing it for free labour.

Quote:

The intern also has to take a proactive position and understand that the internship serves 2 general functions. Getting a little experience and also a (potential) foot in the door.

Ideally, absolutely. In our office, which admittedly is a very small workplace, we've used both paid and unpaid. But basically the unpaid are only there for a very short period of time and we're not really billing for anything they do. We've had a couple of high school students over the years who were exploring their options and looking to just experience what working in an accounting office would be like. They were all there for only one or two days a week over maybe a month or month and a half. Frankly it was more work for the paid staff as we had to find them something to do.

Quote:

If the intern accepts a position for a few months and then leaves on good terms, there is a better chance of moving across the street and getting another position (paid or intern) that will allow them to expand the base of experience.

Again, ideally yes. But I think the trend is becoming to work them into the ground then move on to the next. And if all the companies are doing this, who's getting hired?



Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post


I never would have thought that a restaurant internship existed... Maybe in a higher-end place for the cooks, sous-chefs, etc.

The one that I recall seeing posted which caused a lot of flack was for busboys. I mean, c'mon, that's just too cheap to pay someone minimum wage to clean the tables.
 
Zipperfish
+2
#26
Any business entity should be required to pay staff. It's a loophole inthe labour code. It's an asymmetrical power arrangement, adn the companies will use this to their advantage. level the field.
 
WLDB
+1
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

Probation. If the employee works out, they get a job. And they get paid for the work they do while they're there. Internships are being abused, no question about it. Its free labour.

Even with probation one gets paid. I have at any job that Ive had with the policy. Less than I was when I got off of it but still pay. Pay people with less experience less, not nothing.

Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Lots of University organized internships that are by large companies that don't need to provide that program.

Sure, I see nothing wrong with that as the student would get some credit for it towards their degree. Its not after graduation for nothing.

Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

I think it's hysterical. Rich kids with advanced degrees doing grunt work for free.

No wonder the companies don't hire them after their internships. Who'd want an employee that dumb?

Never looked at it that way. Quite true.
 

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