Archive for the 'Westminster' Category



Interns Beware

We got this letter in the mail…

There is an organisation called The Work Foundation whose ‘mission’ is to promote ‘good work for all’. One of The Work Foundation’s aims is ‘to improve the quality of working life’ but, unfortunately, they do not apply their own principles to their own organisation. The Work Foundation advertised a vacancy this September looking for ‘exceptional interns’ to work for them for three months at minimum wage; so ‘exceptional’ they stipulated that all candidates should have a research based Masters Degree in economics or in a field related to employment. The Work Foundation is taking advantage of present extraordinarily high graduate unemployment, to recruit over-qualified researchers to do work that their full time paid staff were doing, for minimum wage. Such ‘exceptional’ interns would have spent thousands of pounds on their Masters Degrees, all for the promise of minimum wage for three months. It is not ‘good work for all’, it is an example of outrageous hypocrisy and, what is worse, it is exploitation.

However, it is legal exploitation. Because they are paying minimum wage to their interns to do work that their staff would be paid a salary to do, they are not doing anything illegal. The most infuriating thing of all is that The Work Foundation is better than most intern exploiting organisations; at least they offer minimum wage.

The worst perpetrators of graduate exploitation are the policy makers, the politicians. Look on w4mp.org and you will see dozens of vacancies for unpaid internships advertised by politicians, all hungry to take advantage of the unemployment many protest so passionately about. Pick any such advert from a politician and I would bet a Parliamentary intern’s annual salary that politician will have at some point publically complained about income equality or social mobility or the poverty of aspiration or that most politicians are from middle class background and are not reflective of society. Those politicians are bigger hypocrites than The Work Foundation.  Ask yourself which section of society can most afford to work unpaid in London for up to six months, to be able gain sufficient experience to begin a career in politics? I can assure you it is not the poor.

A bunch of hypocrites?

Which is why I was encouraged that all the male Labour leadership candidates signed up to the ‘Intern Aware’ statement, declaring ‘I pledge that if I am elected leader of the Labour Party I will campaign for Labour’s Minimum Wage Act to be fully enforced so that employers must pay their interns what they are due.’ However I spoke to a graduate seeking a career in politics who is not an enthusiast of the ‘Interns Aware’ campaign. She worked on a Labour candidate’s leadership campaign and she told me that because the candidate “signed the ‘Interns Aware’ statement, I am classed as a ‘volunteer’ and not an intern – so now I can’t even claim travel and lunch expenses!” Belatedly the ‘volunteer’ was eventually offered expenses as the leadership race ended. Nevertheless I cannot help but think that Labour candidates signing up to ‘Intern Aware’ pledge and then changing the status of their ‘Interns’ to ‘Volunteers’, was hardly in the spirit of the pledge. However, it does very much fit into the spirit of hypocrisy that plagues politicians; the phrase ‘put your money where your mouth is’ remains to ring true.

Grant Shapps

Dear Grant Shapps MP,

Why are you following us on twitter when you don’t even pay your interns?

Yours,

Interns Anonymous

PS: Follow @interns_anon on twitter here.

IPSA and interns

There is a really interesting post on Labourlist about the current experiences of interns in Parliament. A current intern, Darrell Goodliffe, describes how IPSA, the authority set up to regulate MPs finances, is making it difficult for interns to be paid.

I am a Communications and Research Intern for a sitting MP and earn nothing; in fact, I will be soon be faced with the choice between starvation and eviction because my MP cannot wade through the layers of bureaucracy and provide me with a wage.

Read the rest of the post here.

Diane Abbott and unpaid interns

How many, if any at all, does she have?

We wrote a week or so ago that the number of unpaid interns she has/has had at one time could reach double figures. This was based on various conversations we have had with interns and ex-interns over the past year. Abbott’s name kept cropping up when we asked about high numbers of interns working for MPs (along with Lib Dem Simon Hughes), and adverts like this certainly don’t dispel these doubts.

The blog Blood and Property got in touch with Diane and asked her how many unpaid interns she has…

At the moment, Diane has no unpaid interns. The allegation that she has ‘nearly 10′ is completely untrue. Her last intern was paid the minimum wage. You will notice that the accusation made of Diane in the blog postings are completely unsubstantiated.

I would suggest that other people working in Portcullis House, where many MPs have offices, may have tallied the number of different non-pass-holders entering her office and assumed that they were all interns. Diane has a more diverse range of staff and guests than most MPs, so the people at her office are noticeable.

Diane does have several people volunteering for her leadership campaign (some of whom come to see her at parliamentary office for reasons of convenience). Her leadership campaign must be funded and staffed independently of her parliamentary expenses and volunteers work out of her campaign office in Hampsted on a day-to-day basis.

In order to get to the bottom of this we need to hear from ex Diane Abbott interns. Have you been one? Where you paid? What was your experience like? And most important of all, how many other interns worked for her? Please get in touch here.

ALL LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTENDERS BACK FAIRER INTERNSHIPS

Intern Aware has announced that all five candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party have signed up to back a fair deal for interns. The candidates have pledged to campaign to end the situation in which many interns are denied rights as short-term workers, including being paid the minimum wage. 

Fantastic work by Intern Aware to get all the candidates thinking about this issue. But has Guido Fawkes caught out Ed Balls breaking the pledge already? 

Labour leadership candidates pledge to support interns

The campaign group Intern Aware have taken advantage of the Labour
leadership battle to get the candidates to commit to enforcing
national minimum wage for interns. They are asking all contenders to
sign this pledge:

If I am elected leader of the Labour Party I will campaign for Labour’s Minimum Wage Act to be fully enforced so that employers must pay their interns what they are due.

So far a rather dapper looking Andy Burnham has signed it, and the Milibands have agreed to as well. No news on Ed Balls… and Diane Abbott would be a suprise because we have heard the number of unpaid interns she has could reach double figures! One spoke to us recently to say she worked unpaid for a year and a half before being given a paid role. Real social justice there Diane, you hypocrite.

On the campaign, I think it’s a great idea to use this attempted renewal of the Labour Party to get interns on the agenda. With more young people graduating in a tough economic climate, it’s time politicians enforced the national minimum wage laws they themselves brought in. Intern Aware need to be congratulated for taking this to the top.

More news from Westminster

Newbie Labour MP Luciana Berger has tabled this question to the Leader of the House:

To ask the Leader of the House, if he will bring forward proposals to establish a fund for payment of interns working for hon. Members.

Written Questions: Notices given on Wednesday 21 July

Let’s wait and see what the response will be. Hopefully it will arrive before the summer hols.

MPs admit Wesminster internships break NMW laws…

and ask parliamentary authorities to do something about it…

This Early Day Motion has just been published:

EMPLOYMENT TERMS FOR HON. MEMBERS’ STAFF UNDER THE INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENTARY STANDARDS AUTHORITY

That this House notes with grave concern the reduced employment terms and conditions for staff of hon. Members under the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) expenses scheme; recognises the real terms reduction in hon. Members’ staffing budgets and urges IPSA to raise the staffing limit for hon. Members in the forthcoming review; further notes that redundancy rights have been reduced to a statutory basis, removing discretion to reward loyalty; further notes that hon. Members are also prevented from rewarding good performance through bonus payments to staff; urges IPSA to work towards the creation of a human resources department; further urges IPSA to reconsider the decision no longer to deduct trade union subscriptions at payroll; calls on IPSA to amend the expenses scheme so that payments related to maternity leave and cover can be made from a separate budget and not treated as contingencies; further recognises that in practice many Parliamentary internships qualify for the national minimum wage and further urges IPSA to create an interns fund fairly to pay them; further recognises that public anger at the previous expenses scheme was not due to staff costs and therefore opposes any arbitrary publication of staff salary details; and further urges IPSA to work alongside the Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch and other staff associations to resolve these issues.

and these MPs have signed it:

Jack Dromey
John Cryer
Bob Russell
Grahame M. Morris
Mr Peter Bone
Teresa Pearce
Ian Lavery
Kelvin Hopkins
Mr Michael Meacher
Pamela Nash
Luciana Berger
Mr Andy Slaughter
Andrew Gwynne
Mark Durkan

Interestingly Andy Slaughter is a serial user (or is it abuser) of unpaid interns. See here, here and here.

Broken Promises

I took part in the campaign running up to the General Election and beyond as an unpaid intern for five months. I was promised a job if we win, which we did, but my only reward for my hard work was a “strong reference” that is yet to materialise. I worked an average six days a week, 10-12 hours a day in the first four month and around 100 hours a week in the last month (short campaign). I not only had fix tasks to do but had managerial status and sole responsibility for one aspect of the campaign that involved the coordination of around 200 people. I was provided with accommodation and a lunch allowance but the five months had other expenses too. It did cost me in the end and this put me in a difficult financial situation, not having a regular income for more then half year now. I was not offered a job in spite of promises, am yet to find employment and do not receive any help from the now Member of Parliament.

Continue reading ‘Broken Promises’

Question: What do Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have in common?

Answer: They were both interns for Christopher Hitchens at the Nation magazine in New York.

From George Eaton’s recent Q and A with the Hitch…

Q: When you were at the Nation, Ed Miliband was your intern. What are your memories of him?

A: We talked a lot about the old left and his father’s distinguished role in it. His brother’s middle name is Wright after the socialist C. Wright Mills, a great friend of Ralph’s.

Don’t you feel enlightened! We wrote about Clegg and internships here. 

Within the Walls of Westminster

I undertook an internship this year through February and March, based in a Conservative MP’s Westminster office. It was an amazing opportunity to experience how politics looks and functions at national level. After getting over the initial feeling of being overwhelmed by the many famous faces you see all around you, it didn’t take me long to realise that I had some challenging work in store.

I felt like I fitted in very nicely to the office environment that the MP had created. It was fast paced and there was absolutely no margin for mistakes or misinformation. One of my first duties was to compose replies for my MP to sign that signalled a polite decline to the many invitations he received to events and exhibitions. This task was expanded when I was given the responsibility to reply to various constituent concerns ranging from benefits, to anger at the length of queues at passport control. Often these concerns were difficult to reply to directly so I would then have to take the path of contacting the Ministers who were concerned (e.g. Phil Woolas Immigration Minister at the time).

Continue reading ‘Within the Walls of Westminster’

It starts again

MPs have only just arrived back in the Commons… but already they are looking for some cheap intern labour.

Congratulations to blond bombshell Graham Stuart, Tory MP for Beverley and Holderness who increased his majority by 4500, and Julian Huppert, the new Lib Dem MP for Cambridge. They have the dubious honour of being the first MPs to place unpaid job adverts on the w4mp website. What about a new parliament and a new start?

Email Niki and Julian if you want an unpaid job, or to complain that interns should be paid enough to live on.

niki@grahamstuart.com

julian4cambridge@gmail.com

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Interns Anonymous

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