OTTAWA - The NDP says the federal government has bowed to Opposition pressure in agreeing to tighten the rules covering unpaid interns.The new federal budget includes a promise to amend the Canada Labour Code to ensure that interns are covered by health and safety protections and to clarify the rules governing unpaid internships.New Democrat Andrew Cash says that simply mirrors the provisions in a private member's bill sponsored by his colleague Laurin Liu.Cash and Liu say the governing Conservatives might just as well support their bill, rather than roll their own measures into budget implementation legislation.The NDP have been pressing the intern issue for two years.The Conservatives had initially generally shrugged off the need for legislation on interns, only to embrace it in the budget."I'm getting whiplash, watching them move on this issue," Cash said, noting similarities between the bill and the budget pledge. "They cut and pasted our bill into the budget."The NDP legislation would bring interns under the federal labour laws, Cash said."It extends the definition of employee to include interns and it sets clear rules. The most important ones are that an internship is tied to an educational institution and that it is of primary benefit to the intern, doesn't replace paid work."Labour Minister Kellie Leitch said the budget pledge is meant to "ensure that interns under federal jurisdiction, regardless of pay, receive occupational health and safety support."Leitch wouldn't say whether the government would back Liu's legislation.While the federal labour law doesn't currently cover interns, a number of provinces have codes addressing working conditions and protections for people in these positions.
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