A federal NDP member plans to introduce a private member’s bill to make internships paid positions.
“The cause is important to me because I find it outrageous that more and more young people are working for free and that in Canada we have a youth unemployment crisis,”
As a former musician and freelance journalist for NOW magazine, Cash understands the financial burden placed on workers who do not have a consistent full-time job. After years in an unsteady job market, Cash knew it was time to take action through politics.
He is trying to pass the Internship Protection Act (IPA) for a number of reasons.
“First of all, to bring unpaid interns into the Canada Labour Code, to have them protected like any other employee. The second thing is that it will, for the first time in federal law, set clear guidelines and rules as to when an internship is legal and when it is not,” Cash says.
Initiatives to shut down illegal internships are being put into action. In 2014, the Ministry of Labour cracked down on internship programs ran by The Walrus and Toronto Life. An article published by the Canadian Internship Association outlines illegalities the ministry inspector had found in both publications.
“Toronto Life will have to let go (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.”
Angelica Sydney, a fourth-year Journalism student at Humber College who has completed two internships at major media companies, also expresses her concerns from a student perspective.
“For a couple of years I was not on OSAP because the government believed my parents made too much money, meanwhile I was working 40 hours a week on top of attending full time courses,” Sydney says.
Sydney says her concern was that her savings would only be able to cover tuition, meaning she would have to continue working during her unpaid internships.
“What if you go into this internship and you do not like it? You’re spending money out of your own pocket and working, just to do things you do not enjoy,” Sydney says.
In Sydney’s case, the Internship Protection Act would ensure she is protected from working excessive hours, it would guarantee her the same rights given to paid employees and it would prevent employers from implementing full time work on an unpaid intern.
Going forward, Cash will continue his attempts to pass the IPA through the House of Commons though the progress has been limited because it is a private member’s bill.