Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No fair, says UK publisher ordered to pay "volunteer" intern more than £1,000

There is some pushback against a recent decision in the U.K. in which a publishing company was ordered by an employment tribunal to pay more than £1,000 to an unpaid intern. According to a story by the Press Gazette, The National Union of Journalists claimed the first victory when TPG Web Publishing was told an intern working for its MyVillage website had the right to be paid for work she carried out over a two-month period.

According to a report on the NUJ website,
The tribunal heard that despite the fact she worked each day from 10am to 6pm and had been personally responsible for and in charge of a team of writers, for training and delegating tasks, collecting briefs, scheduling articles and even for hiring new interns, the company had told her she was not eligible for any pay because they considered her an intern.
In her evidence Keri Hudson said she had been asked when the site was taken over by TPG Web Publishing Ltd if she would stay on and work for the new company. She was assured her pay would be fixed. After five more weeks she was informed she would not now be receiving a payment for the work she carried out – she resigned and took out a grievance.
A company spokeperson now says that
  • TPG didn't know about the court date
  • All interns were volunteers 
  • They welcome the ruling because an appeal will allow much needed debate and clarification
  • The government itself advertises unpaid internships and asked the company to take some
  • There are no guidelines defining "intern" or "volunteer"
TPG's editorial director Nia Williams said she believed that internships can be crucial for graduates who enter a highly competitive job market.
“Interns are not used by all companies as cheap labour, as reports suggest,” she added. "Internships are set up to give graduates work experience, allow them to try their hands at a specific career and basically improve their employability – particularly valuable in these difficult times for those looking for jobs.
“A lot of time and resource goes into training unqualified and inexperienced interns to prepare them for working life and this is done at company expense.
“In the case of My Village, interns not only benefited from getting their work published and attributed to them but they were often treated to free lunches and event tickets from the venues they reviewed."
NUJ legal officer Roy Mincoff  after last week's tribunal ruling warned it sent a "clear message to media companies that if they treat interns like cheap labour, the NUJ will take you through the courts. If in reality interns are workers, they are entitled to National Minimum Wage and holiday pay and NUJ will fight for these rights to be enforced".”



Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at a downtown alt weekly and we were never low-budget when we started but our corporate papa got tired of bleeding red ink.

Staff cuts and reduced budgets but with the expectation that we would keep producing the same (or better) product.

Guess what. We never had interns before but after, watch out. Interns were copy editing, fact checking and often writing front page features - things that we always paid skilled pros good money to do.

It was no secret that our internship program was a cost saving measure - period.

The quality of the paper sunk - but the editor got promoted!

10:11 am  

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