The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) is concerned by the behaviour of some associations and campaigns on the issue of unpaid internships. After more than 15,000 students went on strike on November 10 to fight for the remuneration of all internships, it is disturbing to see associations which only work on financial compensation for internships in education with a full teaching load appropriating broader and more progressive struggles than their own.
AVEQ salutes the work of students that have been organizing around unpaid internships across the province, but are concerned that demands may be misconstrued at the level of policy-making at the National Assembly. Thus, we wish to highlight the difference between financial compensation and remuneration as they relate to unpaid internships: whilst compensation seeks to simply add to student financial aid, the fight for remuneration demands a living wage for hours worked, in addition to attaining better working conditions.
Students of the Montreal Coalition for the Remuneration of Internships, as well as the local committees on student work (Comités Unitaires sur le Travail Étudiant – CUTEs) and the Committee for the Remuneration of Stages and Internships of UQO (CRIS-UQO), have been developing progressive argumentation and organizing for several months leading up to the strike of over 15,000 students and interns on November 10th, International Interns Day.
We are encouraged to hear the Higher Education Minister Hélène David publicly mention that she is open to further discussing the remuneration of internships. It is clear that the mobilization and action taken by student groups and associations across the province has both raised the profile of this issue, as well as increased the pressure to respond to it.
That said, we hope that their message and mobilization is not being coopted by groups and politicians that have been completely absent from organizing or supporting the strike for their own political gain and watered-down demands. AVEQ calls for the recognition and uptake of the true progressive demands brought forward by the students organizing on the ground, and reiterates its own clear positions in favour of all internships being paid, and in support of a living wage more generally.
Kristen Perry, AVEQ’s Coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development clarified: “Let me be unequivocal: the over 15,000 students and interns who went on strike on November 10th were doing so with a clear demand that ALL internships must be remunerated, and that all interns should be guaranteed not only fair wages for the labour that that they are doing, but also safe and reasonable working conditions. In short, as workers, they must be protected under the labour code instead of excluded from it.”
While we encourage any movement towards stopping the exploitation of students for unpaid labour, it’s important to recognize that the request for $330/week for education students’ fourth field experience internship that is currently being studied at the National Assembly equates to roughly $8.25/h, considering that this internship consists of a minimum of 40 hours of work a week. Additionally, the motion brought forward excludes the multiple other fields where mandatory internships are unpaid, as well as any internships that fall outside of the scope of mandatory in-program training, and has no mention of ensuring protections of interns as workers.
In response, Häxan, AVEQ’s Coordinator of Sociopolitical Affairs, and herself an education student, noted: “While traditionally male-dominated fields often include internships where students are paid at least a living wage, we seem to still be stuck on debating mere stipends for internships in fields dominated by women and queer people, further demonstrating the ongoing devaluation of care occupations such as education, social work, and nursing.”
AVEQ is proud to support the work of students organizing against unpaid internships and exploitation, and to have added its voice to over 60 other organizations that used the November 10th International Interns Day to launch a declaration calling for the organization of a global interns strike. We invite everyone who believes that all student interns deserve their labour to be recognized and fairly remunerated to join us in the next steps of organizing!