Baffler magazine once opined that "interns built the pyramids". Perhaps the modern equivalent of the pyramids is the prodigious level of governance emanating from Washington and London, cities that are literally fuelled on the exploitation of (illegal, unpaid) intern power. I've been pinning for an opportunity to address how local politicians abuse the unpaid labour of young workers, but understandably the concerned parties aren't exactly forthcoming with concrete information (unless you're Nick Kouvalis). Recently, I stumbled upon evidence that exposes the practice by senior politicians in Ontario of exploiting unpaid labour.
With almost one in five young workers in Ontario currently unemployed one would think that provincial politicians might be taking the problem seriously. No, in fact some are actually contributing to youth joblessness as evidenced by Liberal MPP Laura Albanese's recent advertisement (see above) on the York University's Career Centre website looking for a Communications/Outreach Assistant.
|MPP Laura Albanese|
Laura Albanese, who is also the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour, is looking for a little (free) help in the areas of "social media, writing of communications pieces, data input, tour logistics, graphic design, media relations, event planning, policy creation, research and other duties". These duties appear to be what workers normally get paid for in Ontario, but strangely this part-time unpaid internship doesn't offer any form of remuneration.
This position is illegal under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("the ESA") as it fails to pay the minimum wage of $10.25 per hour and is an attempt to contract out of the minimum standards under the ESA. Simply put, a person cannot "volunteer" their labour to employers where the job duties are similar to those for which workers in Ontario normally receive remuneration. Additionally, this position does not appear to fall into any of the exclusions enumerated under the ESA. It's disgusting that one of the senior leaders at the Ministry of Labour feels free to blatantly violate the social minima designed to stabilize Ontario's labour market.
Given the horrible record of the Liberal Party of Ontario when it comes to youth unemployment this sort of exploitation targeting youths shouldn't come as a surprise. Over Premier Dalton McGuinty's three terms youth unemployment has skyrocketed, funding for programs targeting youths have been slashed, and tens of thousands of young people have lost their jobs. The neglect by the McGuinty government toward youth labour market problems has been profound amid little movement towards actually addressing youth underemployment, an abject lack of a labour market strategy, the rise of unpaid labour, or the growing economic insecurity and precarity that youths face in Ontario society.
Given that Laura Albanese is essentially violating the ESA via the above-noted advertisement I would hope that at a minimum she is removed from her position as Parliamentary Assistant if not asked to resign her seat as a MPP. If you don't like Laura Albanese's hands-on approach to destabilizing Ontario's youth labour market give her a call at 416-212-9790 or drop her an email. For earlier articles about political inaction on youth labour market issues, see: here, here, and here. Finally, take a look at the video below where I discuss the rise of unpaid internships in Ontario.