April 10, 2019
The topic of fair pay for architects and the equitable treatment of employees has once again come up in the news. For its annual pavilion commission, the Serpentine Gallery (London, U.K.) selected Junya Ishigami + Associates—a firm that uses unpaid interns and has been criticized for expecting them to work prohibitively long hours.
I would like to state unequivocally that the OAA does not support the use of unpaid students or interns. The Association strongly believes it is incumbent on architects and architectural practices to pay their employees fairly and to provide reasonable working conditions.
Late last year, Immediate Past President John K. Stephenson wrote
to the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Laurie Scott, seeking to remove the professional exemptions in the Employment Standards Act
that apply to architects and architecture students. That letter followed similar attempts to engage with the former Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, and various letters issued to OAA members about the Association’s stance against unpaid employment.
Not paying employees minimum wage and public holiday pay is archaic. Not providing rest periods, compensation for overtime work, time off between shifts or weekly rest periods fosters resentment between different generations of architects. Together, these practices are prohibitive to creating the modern and equitable profession we all want architecture to be. While I recognize that internships provide an enriching learning opportunity, interns and students are contributing to the value of the projects on which they are working and should therefore be compensated.
The OAA has also been in contact with the schools of architecture across the province and has asked for this information to be shared with their students. Architectural students should never be offering their services gratis, nor should architectural firms be expecting this of them. In offering their services for lesser amounts, students are not only reducing their own self-worth, but also that of the profession.
The OAA continues to advocate for the Ministry of Labour to remove these exemptions from the Employment Standards Act
. Achieving meaningful change continues to be a priority for both myself and for Council. I would direct members to look at the OAA Supporting Safe Workplaces Guide
, published in 2017. The document succinctly informs members of their legal rights and responsibilities in maintaining and working in a safe workplace that is free from workplace harassment and violence. It is also important to remember that since 2016, training in workplace sexual harassment has been mandatory under the Ontario Health and Safety Act
. OAA members can access a discounted course on sexual harassment training here
The use of unpaid employees negatively affects the profession. Even in the absence of legislative change, we must all make a concerted effort to put an end to these practices.
Architecture is an evolving profession where we are all learning everyday—interns and students should not be penalized for being the newest members of profession. By working together, I know we can create a respectful and equitable profession that benefits all employees while better reflecting the value of architecture. Thank you very much for your time and support.
Kathleen Kurtin, Architect