CEGEP, university students walk out in protest over unpaid internships
CEGEP and university students took to the streets Wednesday to protest unpaid internships, arguing that experience doesn't pay the rent.
They claim that though many require internships to finish their degrees, they often do the same work as regular workers and they should therefore be paid for it.
"I'm working three part-time jobs right now, plus my internship, plus class," said Matthew Savage, a student at McGill's school of social work.
A few hundred marched to Place Emilie-Gamelin on Wednesday, and as many as 58,000 Quebec students from three universities and four CEGEPs have joined the walkouts, which are expected to last all week.
"It was really hard because I'd do eight hours a day with an internship then I'd have to go work like a six-hour shift right after my internship," said Maria Alexandra Craciun, a student at CEGEP Vieux-Montreal.
Student internships do not fall under Quebec's labour laws, and therefore don't have the same norms or protections for employees.
"It's really not that complicated. It's not rocket science," said Jacqueline Ohayon, a student at the McGill school of social work. "What we're asking is to have internships be part of the Normes du travail du Quebec."
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge declined to answer questions on the subject, but when the party was in opposition, it was in favour of paying for teaching and psychology internships.
Roberge said in a statement: "I'm aware of the situation and the worries students have over compensation for internships. I will meet with students, schools and internship providers to find solutions that will satisfy all parties."
Protest organizers are threatening a general unlimited strike if their demands aren't met, but many students are hopeful the new CAQ government is taking them seriously.
"I'm hopeful because Francois Legault came from a working-class family in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, so I'm hoping he remembers that," said Savage.
"The message is pretty clear," added Craciun. "He has nothing left to do except deciding how much he wants to pay us."
Savage estimates he's already completed 1,300 hours -- or about four months of free, full-time work -- and still isn't finished his degree.