Fashion victims fight back
CO-OPTATION is the sincerest form of flattery, and the London Freelance Branch campaign to get media interns the payment they're due - following a landmark victory by sister media union BECTU - has been flattered. The most important development is the revelation by Shiv Malik in the Guardian that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) plans to raid fashion companies who engage interns but fail to pay them at least minimum wage, as the law requires. This is significant because HMRC is responsible for enforcing minimum wage law - and can do so six years after the internship ends. Those who take the Industrial Tribunal route must file a claim within three months; your union can be thoroughly involved in the process. HMRC's action follows BECTU supporting film runner Onur Özkol in taking a claim through HMRC - though the union has no formal part in such cases (August Freelance).
In other news, a survey by Interns Anonymous found that half of 647 have already done at least two internships. More than eight out of ten said their internships had gone on for more than a month, with 12 per cent of those surveyed saying they had recently finished an internship of six months or more. Over a quarter received no expenses at all. Many said their work placement had been arranged by their university tutors (unpaid internships are still legal for students in full-time education) and only one in ten were aware they had a right to National Minimum Wage for work placements after their courses had finished.
One respondent said: "I asked if I could be paid... I was told there was no money in the budget for this, which seemed contrary to what I was used to hearing openly stated within the office - that the organisation was flush with money."
And, as also reported in the Guardian, government lawyers last year advised higher education minister David Willetts and junior minister for employment relations Ed Davey that internships have "become endemic" and that "most interns are likely to be workers and therefore entitled to the NMW and other worker rights."