Editorial: The Importance of Recognizing and Compensating All Forms of Labour

Labour shapes us.

In and out of the workplace, it seeps into our waking hours, and as university students, it’s usually unfairly compensated.

The stress of creating a sustainable life for ourselves is never ending. To keep up with the demands of our fields in a competitive environment, we check our various inboxes as often as we breathe. We can’t afford to miss an opportunity, a shift, a message from our professor, or in our case, a story.

When considering labour, it’s important to look at its ramifications—work is only part of the equation. You might picture an office or a blue collar job when thinking about what work is—and you’d be partially right. The ways our workloads affect us are complex and varied, and a big portion of it is daily, constant, and affects people unevenly.

Women, for example, are expected to gravitate towards or take on bigger portions of domestic and care work. On top of the domestic tasks women are expected to maintain, such as cleaning, cooking, child and elderly care, the mental charge associated with them is draining—keeping track of what’s in the fridge, planning meals, remembering birthdays.

This labour is unequally distributed, and generally not compensated. This affects professional fields where women are the majority as well, especially when it comes to unpaid internships, as a disproportionate amount of internships in care fields are not paid.

This problem of unpaid internships affects students across fields. We’re often expected to take on unpaid internships, which put students in an irreconcilable position, having to work for free to graduate or advance their career. The uncompensated work is a burden, and we advocate for interns to be considered workers under the Labour Code, and to receive the same protections as them.

We usually take whatever offer we can get, regardless of the harm it causes us, but we’re better off working collectively instead—by mobilizing or participating in strikes.

When we critique the working conditions of our internships, we’re frequently met with people who claim our concerns reflect an unwillingness to work or take advantage of a good opportunity. This simply is not the truth.

We need to be able to sustain ourselves through the work we do. And we definitely don’t want to be placed in unpaid positions that require us to take on extra jobs, to the point where we become so burnt out that we come to despise work that initially brought us joy.
We don’t just want to survive, but thrive.

But we couldn’t write about labour without addressing the realities that affect us here at The Link. While our time here is meaningful, our compensation does not represent the volume of work we, or our contributors, do. It would be hypocritical and paradoxical of us not to acknowledge the situation our masthead is in, and our shortcomings regarding the compensation of contributor work.

The Link’s masthead are contractually considered volunteers, not employees—we receive a small monthly honorarium for the hours we put in. We are not considered workers, which allows our work to be underpaid and that of our contributors, also considered volunteers, to be unpaid.

At the end of the day, we’re an advocacy publication that aims to cover marginalized populations. These are often the ones whose work is most grossly exploited, and people composing The Link, whether they are member of masthead or contributor, are affected by these issues as well.

Workers deserve better, regardless of what they do.