New front in intern battle
A NEW front has been opened in the struggle to get fair pay for interns, with NUJ sister union BECTU supporting an intern through the process of getting the tax person to intervene - leading a film production company to compensate Onur Özkol for over £1000 in back pay.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is formally responsible for enforcing minimum wage legislation. Early victories in claiming minimum wage for interns - first by the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) with Nicola Vetta's case in 2009 and then by the London-Freelance-Branch-initiated Cashback for Interns win for Keri Hudson in May - have resulted, however, from the unions representing claimants at Employment Tribunal.
As BECTU Supervisory Official Tom Bell puts it, "Onur Özkol's case represents a new landmark in the fight against unpaid labour in broadcasting because it was successfully concluded by HMRC. This now means that we have proven that unpaid labour is an unlawful practice through two different routes - the Employment Tribunal and now the HMRC."
As a BECTU official he supported Onur in approaching HMRC; when it took up the case it approached the company Bonn Productions, which settled out of court. "We're delighted," Bell says, "and Onur certainly is."
Whereas Tribunal cases must generally be brought within three months of the end of the engagement, HMRC has the power to prosecute - or simply threaten prosecution - much longer after the event.