Friday, March 28th, 2014

Interns Must Be Paid, Ontario Labour Ministry Says

Many people agree that unpaid internships are unfair for the worker.

Many people agree that unpaid internships are unfair for the worker.

In a surprising new crackdown in employment law, authorities have banned unpaid internships at two high-profile magazine publishers, promising to make widescale investigations into other sectors as well. The Ontario government says that not paying interns for their work is a direct violation of provincial labour laws.

The magazines the Walrus and Toronto Life Magazine, published by St. Joseph Media, were inspected, resulting in compliance orders being issued. Stating that they simply cannot afford to pay interns, the companies chose to scrap the unpaid positions, letting go of the present interns and cancelling the tenure of upcoming ones.

Companies offering internships defend themselves saying that, although they can’t afford to offer pay, they are providing real-world experience which leads to paid jobs. Co-publisher of the Walrus, Shelley Ambrose, says that offering “amazing training” through internships is part of its educational mandate and adds, “They’ve always been unpaid, not because we’re mean-spirited and horrible (but) we’re a small charitable non-profit and we don’t have the money.”

The president of St. Joseph Media, Doug Knight, agrees with the Walrus, saying his company would love to pay interns but does not have the money to do so. Knight says, “We thought the socially responsible thing to do was at least to provide a bridge for those young people who want to get into the magazine world.”

Ontario authorities say they are standing up for the rights of young people and protecting them from being taken advantage of through the Employment Standards Act which states that trainees must be paid for their work. The magazine companies are puzzled that the enforcement came now, after years of openly running their unpaid internship programs. They also question why the province didn’t engage in some form of deliberation on the issue before lowering its fist.

Instead of softening their stance, the Ministry of Labour said it would “be launching an enforcement blitz this spring focused specifically on internships across a variety of sectors,” and offered no further comment.

While many people agree that unpaid internships are unfair for the worker, and that those who can afford to work for free are getting an elitist advantage, others believe the crackdown is unfortunate for publishers, as well as for students who have to pay to go to school but now will not be able to take advantage of free on-the-job-experience.

Editorial Staff
Author: Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff at STUDY Magazine is a team of industry professionals.
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