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Labouring life away

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By Sarah Del Giallo
Biz & Tech Editor

Working your way through school can put you in a vulnerable position. Some employers take advantage of your inexperience and need for cash. In the weeks to come, we’ll show you your rights

There is no doubt that a student life is a stressful one. That rule is only exaggerated for the working student.

This past summer, I worked my first internship. I was making five dollars an hour at 40 hours a week. I walked an hour to and from the office every day because I couldn’t afford a Metropass and worked hard to prove myself competent, but I received no credit for my work.

I began the job with promise of a raise, but then found out there was not enough in the budget, so I didn’t get one.

I had to choose between money and work experience. Not an easy choice. But I needed to eat and pay tuition.

I quit.

I’ll admit I didn’t know if my rights were being impeached, but I knew I didn’t feel good about my situation.

Over the next couple of months, the Eyeopener will be bringing you a series on labour laws and your rights within them.

Next week we will cover jobs on campus: what your contract should state and how you should be treated.

Following that we’ll discuss restaurant work, mainly waiting tables and bartending.

Next we’ll take a look at your personal stories, with an expert opinion on how the situation should have been handled.

In the fourth part of the series, we’ll take a look at retail, hours and wages, and lastly, we’ll be covering the dirty and overworked world of internships.

Each of these working environments has its own rules and grey areas when it comes to the law. Waitresses work hours that wouldn’t be legal in any other industry and you don’t need to be paid anything for an internship.

But when it comes to these areas, employers can be cruelly opportunistic, and that’s why it’s important to educate yourself. If you’re working illegal hours or being paid illegal wages, you need to know how to better your situation.

If your mind is filled with worries over exams, assignments, and having enough money for food and rent, your priority becomes getting as many hours as possible. At that point, it’s easy to forget where your rights as a citizen fall into the mix.

When it comes to work, there are labour laws for every job that are meant to protect you. It’s likely that you don’t know what those laws are, and some institutions and companies will bank on your ignorance.

So it’s time you learn.

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