Slave labour for interns

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By Caroline Alphonso

The good news is Ryerson students will soon be eligible to apply for a federal internship program. The bad news is the pay sucks.

Last week, Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced a $90 million Feder Public Sector Youth Internship Program that would see 3,000 people between the ages of 15 and 30 given one-year stints working for federal agencies.

“It is good the government is getting involved, but the wages are a slap in the face,” said Gord Tanner, RyeSAC’s v.p. education.

“They are simply below the poverty line.”

Half the internship positions will be offer to university, college and high school graduates. The other half will be awarded to those who have dropped out of high school.

Wages for these internships range from $9,8800 to $15,000 a year, according to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

“There is little hope people can take these wages with an average student debt load of $30,000,” said Jennifer Story, national deputy chairperson for CFS. “Chretien just took the opportunity with unemployment being so high among youth by saying they are responding with a new program.”

Last month the youth unemployment rate was 16.7 per cent for those between 16 and 29 compared with a national unemployment rate of nine per cent.

“After waiting eight months for this announcement, young Canadians feel betrayed. The youth unemployment crisis will not be solved by offering short-term, low-paying internships,” said Story. “If the federal government was truly committed to this issue it would allocate the resources necessary to bring down youth unemployment in this country.”

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