Students, youth and labour activists in Ontario came together and formed Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams (SAUIS) to campaign on issues surrounding current laws around unpaid internships.
As the youth unemployment rate fluctuated between 16 and 17 per cent in 2013, unpaid internships are increasing an estimated 100,000 each year according to SAUIS pre-budget submission “Taking Action on Unpaid Internships.”
“Over the long term, I think that the system as a whole doesn’t work well,” said Josh Mandryk, media contact and SAUIS organizer. “They need to introduce measures to properly enforce the law.”
SAUIS held a rally on Feb. 26 outside St. Paul’s church on Bloor Street East, where the Minister of Finance Charles Sousa was holding a pre-budget consultation, calling on the government to take action on unpaid internships.
During the rally, Mandryk and Ella Henry met with Sousa to discuss the group’s concerns.
Katherine Lapointe, Canada program co-ordinator for the Communications Workers of America who was present at the rally said, “It was freezing outside, but it was still a good turnout of people.”
Since the launch of the campaign, 1,000 Ontarians have signed a petition calling on the government to take action.
In Nov. 2013, in response to a question asked by Scarborough Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter regarding whether unpaid internships were legal in Ontario, Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi said, “In Ontario it doesn’t matter what your job title or position is, if you work for someone you are covered by the Employment Standards Act, there is no such thing as unpaid internships.”
Jonathan Rose, Naqvi’s communications director, said under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) there is indeed no category for “unpaid internships”. If you are working in Ontario you are entitled to at least minimum wage.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article identified the group as Stop Unpaid Internship Scams, which was the name used by the group on Facebook and their website. The Dialog regrets the error.