FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Unpaid internship strike: feminist mobilization

Unpaid internship strike: feminist mobilization

The Women’s Network is a great place to hear about the issues and struggles experienced by women from different backgrounds. At the last edition, Kaëlla Stapels, a nursing student at Cégep de Maisonneuve and a CUTE (Comité Unitaire sur le Travail Étudiant) activist, presented the feminist perspective of the Quebec student mobilization for paid internships at all education levels.

How can the demand for paid internships be interpreted as a feminist demand? Well, 74% of unpaid internships are worked by women whereas men are 2.5 times more likely to work at paid internships. Most unpaid internships are in occupations that were once traditionally considered for women, including care professions (nursing, teaching, social work, etc.). Furthermore, internships’ long hours make it impossible for students to have paid employment outside of their studies, leaving them in a precarious financial position.

CUTE activists demand paid internships, rather than financial compensation, because they also want to have a worker status. This status would entitle them to rights under different laws, including the Act respecting labour standards and the Act respecting occupational health and safety. It would also give them access to resources in the event that they need to report an accident on the internship’s premises, psychological harassment, etc.

Kaëlla’s talk helped illustrate why feminist mobilization is still necessary and well and alive, even among the future cohort of healthcare professionals.