Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/590/7626
Internships = Exploitation
On top of their fat pay packets and bloated expenses, MPs may have found a further way to save money. The Guardian newspaper is investigating whether any of the 18,000 hours per week worked by unpaid interns at Westminster should be covered under the 1998 National Minimum Wage Act.
Edd Mustill, Cambridge Socialist Students
Under the legislation, all contracted workers should be paid, but an informal labour market of internships allows employers to get around this. The scandal of unpaid internships is growing during the recession as companies attempt to cut labour costs. Often interns are effectively doing the same jobs as paid workers.
A National Union of Journalists survey of recently qualified journalists found that a quarter thought that their workplace couldn't function without relying on work placements. Over half were still in placements, often unpaid, after qualifying.
Not only is this bare-faced exploitation taking advantage of graduates in a shrinking job market, but it is closing off professions like journalism to all but the wealthy. The constant cuts in local media mean most opportunities are in the capital. Who can afford to live in central London while earning nothing? Often there is no real application procedure for a position. Landing one relies purely on having the right connections or the right school tie.
The publication of Alan Milburn's Unleashing Aspiration report confirmed what harsh reality has already taught graduates. While criticising how closed off professions like journalism are becoming, the report only offered typically feeble Blairite 'solutions'. These include extending careers advice back into primary school, and giving more children the opportunity to join a cadet force! No word against the impending hike in university fees. No word about the gross unfairness of the existence of independent schools.
Clearly, the bosses want us fighting like cats in a sack for the few opportunities available. Clearly they want to lower our expectations to they extent that we will be grateful for a few weeks of unpaid work. Unpaid internships should be done away with. Everyone who works should receive a fair wage.
Rather than hiding behind pathetic documents like Milburn's report, the government should be spearheading the creation of decent jobs across society, and stopping long periods of unpaid labour becoming the norm in many professions.
In The Socialist 12 August 2009:
International socialist news
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Labour history comment