More than 15,000 students on strike across Quebec to protest unpaid internships
They are answering the call for a Global Intern Strike launched internationally by the Global Intern Coalition and relayed by the Montreal and Sherbrooke coalitions for paid internships.
Students from Montreal, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau and Laval are going on strike and planning visibility actions on campuses in order to demand pay for all internships as well as protections granted by law, in particular labour standards.
For Stéphanie Gilbert, a teaching student and an activist at UQO's Comité pour la rémunération des internats et des stages (CRIS-UQO), this is a sexist double standard: "Engineering students are paid when they do internships!
"When you do an internship in social work, nursing or teaching, why do you have to do it for free, even paying and taking out loans? Clearly, it is because there is a majority of women in these fields and their work is not recognized at its true value."
Paid workers in the public and community sectors are not the only ones for whom working conditions are deteriorating.
Interns are also greatly affected by reforms in the health sector and by cuts in the funding of public and community services for example, explained Sarina Motta, a social work student involved in University of Montreal's Comité unitaire sur le travail étudiant (CUTE-UdeM): "Interns are surely among the most affected by cuts in social services and in health.
"They often have to do the tasks that paid workers do not have time to do, without being paid nor benefiting from the legal protections offered by labour standards."
The regional coalitions for paid internships are asking for the recognition of the status of workers for interns, as well as the repeal of the act's article legitimizing internship bosses not to pay their interns. This recognition would allow interns to obtain the legal status of workers. ■