British Columbia

Go Public inbox: Unpaid interns speak out

After unpaid intern Jainna Patel went public about Bell Mobility's Professional Management Program, we heard several similar stories from you.

More stories and views from Go Public readers

Bell promotes its Professional Management Program with images like this, showing interns gaining from the experience. (Bell PMP)

After unpaid intern Jainna Patel went public about Bell Mobility’s Professional Management Program, we heard several similar stories from you. 

Date: Mon, Jun 24, 2013 1:55 p.m. PT

I have recently left the PMP program at Bell and I can relate very much to Jainna Patel's experience. This article is the most viewed on CBC today, so I imagine you may be interested in doing a follow up story. It would be very easy to find a few other PMP alumni to speak about the program to CBC. I would be happy to speak anonymously about my experience and how I believe Bell and Henry Mar have broken several labour laws. In the time that I was there I knew dozens of interns (myself included) who were coerced to work well past  12am. I have a few stories you may be interested in hearing.

Date: June 24, 2013 5:02 a.m. PT 

Good morning,

I feel terrible for Jainna. I went through the same thing 10 years ago. I dealt with Henry from the beginning and I should have known better. In the "interview," he straight up said I would working with information that was so confidential that if I ever told anybody what I did, I'd be "sued until the day I die."

What did I do? Called LCBOs across the province for wine recommendations. Went on daily walks through the Eaton Centre with Mr. Smithers (Henry was Mr. Burns), listening to him tell me how I needed to have a better family, have a better life, better hobbies... I spent 12 unpaid hours one Sunday working on Henry's Harvard MBA application.

Unlike Jainna, I DID have a paid contract. As I recall, I made $28,000 a year. I think I was 24 at the time? I was told each and every day how lucky I was to have such an amazing job and that most people my age were making peanuts and that I had a huge opportunity at a great career — etc. etc. It was all B.S. All of it. I see now it was all an attempt to keep me under his thumb. I lasted eight months into the one-year contract before I left.

I think I should have realized something was wrong in my first month when I asked for time off as my father was in a coma. I was given a laptop to use to practice learning pivot tables on Microsoft Excel. After a week, I'd made little progress, so they asked for the laptop back. I took a total of two weeks off (my father survived). I returned to a meeting with Mr. Smithers telling me how fortunate I was to have that much time off because execs only get three days off for relatives — maximum — and that's only for extreme situations like the death of a member of an immediate family.

What I'm saying is the environment that I was in was far more manipulative than the labour-laws angle in your story. Can I prove any of this? Absolutely not. Henry is too smart for that. He brings in kids, pounds them with their B.S. I have nothing to show for it, no proof, no reference, nothing... just a burning resentment for everything Mar, Bell stand for (I even switched to Rogers... hahahaha). 

Anyways, I've reached out to Jainna to offer my support. I'm letting you know this because she's not the only one. Keep up the good work.

Date: June 24, 2013 5:40 a.m. PT 

I was an applicant for the Bell PMP internship program.

As a person who applied for the Bell PMP program, I'm glad I wasn't accepted.  They told us we'd be expected to: do homework on weekends, stay late, solve complex problems, be willing to work a few hours in a different department every week.  It appears they only selected the few people who would do all of this for free.  They told me they had thousands of applicants; I made it to the second interview.  They showed off their: offices, custom computers, drawing surfaces, render farm. Had the audacity to call themselves "the Google of Canada".

Date: June 24, 2013 6:29 a.m. PT 

Hello,  I just read your article about the Bell PMP internship program. I was also in the program and I have MANY stories about that slave ship, including but not limited to how the manager of the program Henry literally asked me to wash his dishes that he left around the office, and he would choose muscular male interns to help with manual labour that needed to be done in the office,  I commuted from Whitby to Mississauga without any compensation, and was often pressured to work late despite my expected full time hours and 2 hours of commuting each way. Could you please put me in contact with the other interns from the story or do another story about him?

Date: June 24, 2013 8:08 a.m. PT 

I just read your story about Bell...and I hope they don’t shut her up and pay her off quickly. That’s the entire premise of Bell...I’m so thankful you published this article.

I worked for Bell, the entire environment is based on "Fear Factor". Everyone there is afraid all the time for their jobs, even paid employees work night and day just to keep their jobs, it’s pathetic. I can’t believe  they’ve sustained this clean image for so long.

Lastly, they are the primary sponsor for Healthy Mental Living, George Cope chose this ...and the ironic thing there are so many people that work there that are a mess from the stress — it’s kind of ironic.

Great article! I worked with some of those students and they were very bright! That program got someone a was the "flavour" of the quarter at the time.

Date: June 24, 2013 at 11:59 a.m. PT

Hello, I worked as an intern with Rogers Communications as an intern for their magazine LOULOU.  I too have had the same experiences as the Bell case and would like to get in touch about filing a complaint.

Date: June 24, 2013 8:57 a.m. PT

This is more common than you think I paid BCIT over $800 to participate in the first 10-week practicum (full-time, unpaid) of their Cardiology Technologist diploma program. Not only the young people get burned — I was 45 when I completed the first year of the cardio tech program. (It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life!) According to labour laws, a fully-qualified Cardio Technologist is supposed to be with you at all times — but they aren't. We are told that as students, we need the experience alone, but we can't tell anyone that we are students on our own who must be supervised but aren't. For several weeks, I was doing ECGs and Holter monitors by myself. After 7 weeks I was exhausted and on a Thursday, I asked to have the Friday off because I needed 3 days to rest up — and was told "No". The next day I came in but quit halfway through the day There's more to the story but too much to flog here. My sympathies to the Bell interns.