Yesterday an interesting campaign challenging the rise of unpaid internships in the U.K. was launched by Trades Union Congress ("TUC") and the National Union of Students ("NUS"). The year-long campaign is aimed at ending the practice of unpaid internships and it's being endorsed by Interns Aware and the National Union of Journalists. The goals of the campaign are to demand enforcement of the national minimum wage regulations, to ensure that interns know and have a means of enforcing their rights, and publicly identifying employers' exploitative human resources practices.
Francis O'Grady, TUC General Secretary, commented that “Too many employers are ripping off young people by employing them in unpaid internships that are not only unfair but, in most cases, probably illegal. Internships can offer a kick-start to a career that many young people value. But as more and more graduates are being forced to turn to internships in place of traditional entry level jobs, we’re concerned that a growing number of interns are at risk of real exploitation. Employers need to know that there’s no such thing as free labour.”
There's a interesting point here that's applicable to the Canadian context. It's great to see organized labour, student organizations, and wider civil groups working together to address this serious problem and good to see this level of organization in the U.K., but it raises questions about organizations in Canada are (not) doing in relation to challenging unpaid internships in jurisdictions Canada. Unpaid internships are certainly an issue that groups like the Canadian Federation of Students, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress, or the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
The NUS has put together a range of resources for the campaign: they've released a couple of excellent briefing documents (see: here and here); produced a poster for the campaign; created a website where interns can share their experience; and, a smartphone app will be launched in March to help interns ascertain the legality of their internships. They also released a cheeky video about the situation (love the pug shots), see it below: