NUJ: PPA needs to take action on unpaid interns

The National Union of Journalists has accused magazine industry trade body the PPA of failing to take action on what one editor called the ‘contentious and confusing’subject of unpaid interns.

The issue made headlines last week when it emerged internships at Tatler magazine were auctioned for £4,000 at a Conservative Party fundraiser.

Deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet waded into the debate yesterday, questioning the PPA’s commitment to enforcing its own guidelines, which state interns should be paid the national minimum wage.

This is something magazines and newspapers routinely fail to do. Of the 25 editorial intern vacancies advertised on jobs website gorkanapr.com, for example, only three stated the positions were paid. Ten noted the positions were unpaid but included travel expenses, and the remainder did not clarify either way.

‘The NUJ’s policy on this is very clear – interns should be paid at least the minimum wage, and should expect proper rights and working conditions,’said Stanistreet. ‘We believe employer organisations have a duty to set reasonable standards for their side of the industry.

‘We look after our side of the house, and they need to look after theirs. The PPA should be taking a lead on these issues. The guidelines ought to be enforced but we have no knowledge of how they’re doing this.’

In a statement the PPA said: ‘The PPA supports the comprehensive work experience guidelines developed by the Periodicals Training Council (PTC). These guidelines, which have been endorsed by the National Council for Work Experience, are available on the PPA website and make it clear that interns must be paid.

‘In the event that concerns are raised about practices regarding internships at PPA member companies, they would be addressed on a case by case basis.’The PPAsaid it is not currently dealing with any such cases.

Several editors currently advertising for unpaid internships were contacted but none were willing to comment on the record.

One, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘It’s a rather contentious and confusing issue, so I’d rather abstain from commenting,’adding that the subject ‘certainly needs some clarity”.

In October 2010 the NUJ launched its “Cashback For Interns” campaign urging those who have taken up unpaid editorial internships to claim back unpaid wages, following a judgment given at Reading Employment Tribunal in November 2009 in favour of former intern Nicola Vetta.

Vetta had initially agreed to receive only expenses, but later decided to seek payment and the tribunal recognised that she was entitled to the national minimum wage.

The PPA guidelines state that those on work placements should be paid the minimum wage when their placement extends beyond work experience (typically up to around two weeks) to doing wthe work of a paid employee.

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