Nfld. & Labrador

MUN student union fights against unpaid internships

Memorial University's students' union has started a campaign to fight back against unpaid student internships.

Engineering, business have paid programs while nursing, education, social work do not

MUNSU's Candace Simms wants changes made to the current internship system. (CBC)

Memorial University's students' union has started a campaign to fight back against unpaid student internships.

MUNSU launched "Work is Work" — an attempt to put money into the pockets of unpaid interns — during a public meeting at the university on Thursday night.

Many of the university's programs involve internships that require students to work regular hours for no pay.

Executive director of MUNSU external affairs, Candace Simms, said changes need to be made to the current system.

"Students in engineering and business pay for one course, which is $255 and they get paid for the work they are doing," Simms said.

"Students in programs like education, nursing and medicine pay up to five times that amount — $1,200 — and they don't get paid for the work that they do while on their placements."

Simms said the issue goes beyond a student's ability to pay their bills. For many, the difference between paid or unpaid internships is an issue of student rights.

"Work is work, so no matter what students are doing they're still contributing to the work force. Often times they're working 35-40 hours a week, they're not able to get part-time work to off set the cost of participating in these placements."

Fourth-year MUN student Kate Walsh, who starts her internship next year, said she is one of the lucky ones who does get paid. 

"I think it creates competition in our program," said Walsh.

"Therefore, people work harder for your job, if you're getting paid, right?" 

Ideally, the students' union would like one cost for all students on work terms, but the bigger battle will be getting a pay cheque for those student interns who now work for free.


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