Former trip leaders at S-Trip, the popular Toronto-based travel agency for students, are suing the company for $7 million. By treating their employees as "volunteers," S-Trip got away with exploiting their labour without paying them a legal wage. Or, any wage at all.
S-Trip is a leading travel company in Ontario for student trips, known for organizing high school graduation excursions to resorts in Cuba and The Dominican Republic.
One trip leader, 23-year-old D'andra Montaque, describes working 14-hour days on a student excursion to Cuba. "It was very intense, very hard and exhausting." She says it was "nerve wracking" to be the chaperone for a massive group of high school grads, and making sure things didn't get out of control.
At the end of the trip, S-Trip only compensated her for her hard work with a "volunteer" honorarium of $150.
Not only that, S-Trip even made her pay out of pocket for her uniform. After all that, Montaque was left with just $70. "It could've been an amazing experience, an amazing job opportunity, but at the end of it I felt used," she says.
The lawyers working on the case claim that S-Trip violated Ontario's labour laws. "Quite simply, these aren't volunteers. This is a for-profit company; it's in business to make money and these are its front-line workers."
Here's the crazy part - S-Trip has responded, saying that the claims are "without merit" and are prepared to defend themselves in court. "We work closely with labour lawyers to ensure we abide by all provincial laws, statutes or guidelines, regardless of role."
But we'll let the courts decide how true that is.