S-Trip accused of exploiting volunteer ‘trip leaders’ who work long hours
The Toronto Star talks to Josh Mandryk about S-Trip’s so-called “volunteer” trip leaders
How would you like to work 14-hour days for no pay? The Toronto Star reports on the young people recruited by the Canadian company, I Love Travel, to be “trip leaders” for S-Trip, a student travel company. They are expected to work 14-hour days, assisting with the execution of activities, excursions and parties for the students on the trip.
I Love Travel says that its trip leaders are “volunteers”, not employees. They are provided with an honorarium of between $150 to $300 per trip (which can last from five to ten days), and their travel costs are paid. The company takes $80 from their first $150 honorarium to pay for their uniforms.
The contracts signed by trip leaders state: “I understand that I am engaged as a volunteer providing services to the company, that I am not engaged as an employee, and that no employment relationship is established between myself and the company.”
It’s not up to a company to decide whether someone is an employee, a “volunteer” or an intern. I Love Travel is a for-profit business. It says that trip leaders are like counsellors at summer camp but, as The Star notes, “day camp counsellors and “trip leaders” in Ontario are typically paid rates close to or exceeding the province’s minimum wage.” The Ministry of Labour has apparently investigated S-Trip in the past, but it is not clear what was being investigated.
Some lawyers find it hard to believe that trip leaders would be considered to be volunteers to whom the Employment Standards Act does not apply.
Joshua Mandryk, a labour lawyer at Goldblatt Partners and the Ontario director of the Canadian Intern Association, said work for a private-sector employer that is connected to its central business operation should be paid according to the Employment Standards Act, in the “absence of a statutory exclusion.”
If positions are done as a co-op placement for a school credit, for instance, that would be acceptable, since those roles are excluded from the act, he said.
Josh and another lawyer are calling on the Ministry of Labour to investigate S-Trip’s practices.