The University of Waterloo PR department is quick to publicize the successes of the co-op program. What we do not often hear about are its failures.
Kyle Spaans is a computer science student in the co-op program. He recently contacted us regarding his fall 2009 term in which he worked for a company called Xandros. At some point during the work term the company ran out of money. Paychecks became more and more delayed until December, when they were replaced by promises. It has now been 7 months and he has yet to be payed. When CECS was contacted regarding this issue they told Kyle that they could only "encourage" employers to "do the right thing" and offered no assistance with the issue.
It was only after a fraudulent T4 was issued, documenting Kyle's missing pay, that CECS acted. The field coordinator met with the CEO of Xandros. When he came back he only echoed the same empty promises which had previously been delivered. When Kyle contacted Peggy Jarvie, the Executive Director at CECS, she stated that she felt that the field coordinator acted correctly. We attempted to contact the field coordinator over the past two weeks regarding this but were unable to reach him in time for publication.
Part III, Sect 3, Paragraph 5, Clause 2 of the Employment Standards Act specifies that it does not apply to "An individual who performs work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university." This is a very general statement. Does it apply to the University of Waterloo co-op program? If it does it would seem that co-op students have no legal recourse regarding poor employment beyond criminally negligent situations or breach of contract. Kyle asked a similar question of a different field coordinator when discussing this issue, and was informed that co-op students count as "casual labor" under the act. That term is not used by the act.
Students expect that CECS will be there to help them if employment related problems arise but it is only when a real problem comes up that we are allowed a glimpse at the true face of this organization.
by Cesar Chavez