TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - Student leaders representing over 140,000 undergraduate and professional students are visiting Queen's Park this week to call for greater protections for unpaid interns in Ontario. Participating in the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA)'s annual Student Advocacy Conference, students will spend the week meeting with Ministers, MPPs, and party critics to discuss issues around youth employment, student financial assistance, and university cost growth.
"Students are becoming increasingly familiar with stories of their peers being unfairly required to work long hours for no pay," said Amir Eftekarpour, OUSA President and Vice President External of the University Students' Council of Western University. "In many cases, the work being done by interns constitutes paid work under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and deserves monetary compensation."
Under the ESA, an unpaid internship that does not provide the intern with vocational training or displaces a paid position fails to meet the standards for unpaid work and should therefore be paid.
"OUSA believes that the Ministry of Labour should be more proactive in its enforcement of the ESA," continued Eftekarpour. "Increased mechanisms should be put in place that allow any student employed in an unpaid internship that they believe is illegal the ability to anonymously file a complaint with the Ministry and have the matter actively looked into."
Supported by recent reports by the C.D. Howe Institute and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, students are also calling for the Province to cease issuing new tuition and education tax credits and redirect these funds towards improving and expanding existing financial assistance programs.
"The government expects to spend $340 million on tuition and education tax credits in 2013, making them the second most expensive investment the Province makes in student financial assistance," said Spencer Graham, OUSA Steering Committee Member and Vice President Education of the McMaster Students Union (MSU). "Yet only 54% of first year students are aware these tax credits exist and only 1/3 make enough money in-study to benefit from them, meaning they do little to improve accessibility or affordability."
Alongside OUSA's concerns with unpaid internships and tuition and education tax credits, students will also be making recommendations to politicians and stakeholders regarding work-integrated learning opportunities, improvements to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, and spending transparency at Ontario's universities.
About the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA)
OUSA represents the interests of over 140,000 professional and undergraduate, full- and part-time university students at eight member associations across Ontario.
SOURCE: Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
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