VFX workers in Ontario, Canada have pointed me to a discussion about job postings by an animation studio called Guru for unpaid internships.
Apparently the post garnered so much outrage in the comments section that the site took the post down and instead put up an article that seems to whitewash the issue:
We’re asking if these interns should be getting paid for their work or not. But therein lies the conundrum. Because they’re not getting paid, they’re not technically employees, and therefore, not covered under the employment standards act. They’re volunteers, pure and simple.
But the commenters continued to take a stand. Here were a few that I feel were compelling:
At least in China, a college grad who can only get a job at an IPad factory gets paid $22US a day.
Canadian animators with college education and “1-2 years experience” are only offered unpaid internships for full time work?
To make matters worse, the province uses taxpayer money to pay the producers to do the work in Ontario. So the students are indirectly paying to work for free:
Isn’t the 20% salary Ontario animation tax credit incentive enough?
Look, it doesn’t matter at all what the law says. Artists in Ontario can easily end this practice by forming a union that sets appropriate standards. Have the employers sign a collective bargaining agreement that sets wage minimums for all workers.
I personally feel internships should be banned. I find it disgusting that after going to school for years in VFX training that you are expected to “pay your dues” and take an unpaid internship for a project that exists for a profit. Wasn’t paying thousands of dollars in tuition enough?
The excuse by employers for unpaid internships is usually to assess if you’re a competent and good worker but isn’t that true for all jobs that are paid? No matter how experienced or how well you are paid you are being assessed everyday. If you aren’t cutting it you get fired. The only difference is with an unpaid internship the employer gets free work. Of course they know you’re a competent worker, why would they want you to waste their time if they knew you couldn’t do the work for them?
One thing is for sure, hats off to the artists in Ontario for speaking out against this. Remember almost a year ago when these kinds of things would happen in Canada and workers were too scared to speak out? Know hope.
Employers, if you want charity, go to a church.