Is wage theft Gordon Nixon’s new initiative aimed at “helping” young people?

Between being caught outsourcing forty-five jobs to India, the visceral outrage of Canadians on social media, and atextbook PR disaster – by any measure RBC had a rough week. The eventual point-man in the temporary foreign worker saga was Gordon Nixon, RBC’s CEO, who attempted to defend the indefensible through a series of poorly messaged appearances and ill-conceived crisis management.
One thing point that caught my attention was the eighth paragraph from Gordon Nixon’s open letter, it read: “Fourth, we are preparing a new initiative aimed at helping young people gain an important first work experience in our company, which we will announce in the weeks ahead.” An interesting tactic, but is RBC really interested in helping the throngs of unemployed youths in Canada? I would suggest that they’re not.
I came across an advertisement for an unpaid internship with RBC Dominion Securities (the full ad appears below). The contact person for RBC is Natalie Pickett who is an Associate with RBC in Scarborough. RBC is looking for an Research Assistant to generate new clients, develop seminars, copy edit newsletters, design direct marketing campaigns, and research special projects.
This intern wouldn’t be paid, but RBC is looking for a 4th year student or recent graduate for approximately four months of unpaid work. Business, finance, or marketing majors are preferred and having the Canadian Securities Course would be a bonus. The advertisement states RBC is “looking for a candidate that is self confident with good communication skills, highly organized and can work independently in a fast-paced environment while multitasking.”
In 2012 RBC posted $7.5 billion in profit. The idea that they can’t pay their interns is offensive. What’s on display here is flaunting the ability to exploit students desperate to gain a foothold in the labour market. This internship is also illegal as unpaid internships are prohibited under the Canada Labour Code (RBC is a Federally-regulated employer) as unlike Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 there are no exclusions from employment standards protections for unpaid labour or unpaid training (not that this is training, it’s work). This is textbook intern misclassification, blatant wage theft, and an abhorrent violation of employment standards.
I should note that this is not the first time I’ve caught RBC running an illegal unpaid internship scam. Two years ago I wrote a blog post highlighting York University’s practice of advertising illegal unpaid internships on the school’s career services website and RBC Dominion Securities had an advertisement up at that time. I found the latest advertisement on York University’s career services website, so there is a pattern of illegal exploitation of interns by RBC over a number of years.
This is another illegal and morally questionable human resources practice from one of Canada’s largest corporations. It’s a bit rich for Gordon Nixon to trot out the prospect of giving young people jobs while behind the scenes his company is exploiting countless unpaid interns. Sadly, this appears to be just another supremely shady attempt by RBC to subvert employment standards and place risk entirely on the back of the misclassified employeeintern.
Misclassification of employees has a rich history with Canada’s banking sector. Currently, both Scotiabank and CIBC are facing class action lawsuits alleging that their employees (mostly females) were systematically denied wages for the overtime they worked. This is a type of wage theft target vulnerable workers that is analogous in many ways to wage theft perpetrated against unpaid interns. RBC itself has been the target of a number of misclassification lawsuits:  RBC Capital Markets settled a Fair Labor Standards Act claim in the United States brought by securities brokers who were misclassified as professional employees.
The problem in all of this is that the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s Labour Program does not properly regulated internships much like the lack of regulatory oversight with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Under the watch of Stephen Harper enforcement efforts in the area of labour standards have been non-existent. Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt is openly hostile to any form of workplace protection and is quite content with letting employers blatantly violate whichever laws they feel like.
Hopefully RBC will see the error of their ways and start paying their interns a decent wage, but I’m not holding my breath. For some previous articles on rich people exploiting interns, see: hereherehere, and here. Take a look at RBC’s advertisement below.

The Third Jihad – Radical Islam’s Vision for America


The Third Jihad is an in-depth documentary film that exposes the war the media is not telling you about. It reveals the enemy our government is too afraid to name.

One person who is not afraid to speak out is Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim American and former physician to the US Congress.

After the FBI released a radical Islamist manifesto describing how to destroy America from within, Dr. Jasser decides to investigate.

The Third Jihad is about what he discovered.