EU agencies exploiting interns?

Here we go again.

I blog about the exploitation of unpaid interns a lot – most recently just a few days ago when a US Federal judge has ruled that against the company that made the movie “The Black Swan” for not paying interns.

Now the spotlight is on various EU offices and their involvement of interns:

The European Commission offers some 1,400 sought-after five-month traineeships a year with a 1,074 euros monthly salary that is top tier… Yet the pay is well below the Belgian minimum wage requirement of 1,500 euros per month. Many other advertised positions offer monthly stipends of a few hundred euros and sometimes nothing at all.

Traineeships are supposed to provide training, but the line between that and actual employment is often blurred.

EU agencies, you have two choices:

  • pay trainees at least minimum wage and limit an intern to no more than four months in any internship at any organization, or,
  • create a mission (and a mission statement) for your volunteer (unpaid staff) involvement and live it: state explicitly why your organization reserves certain tasks / assignments / roles for volunteers (unpaid staff, including unpaid interns), to guide employees and volunteers in how they think about volunteers, to guide current volunteers in thinking about their role and value at the organization, and to show potential volunteers the kind of culture they can expect at your organization regarding volunteers. A commitment by the EU to involve volunteers would be a wonderful thing – allowing EU citizens to take on tasks and see first hand how an agency works that is meant to serve them, creating a sense of both ownership by citizens as well as a sense of transparency about the agency.

Either way, these internships, paid or unpaid, should be structured so that they provide real, meaningful learning experiences – that’s what makes them internships, regardless of pay.

And you best do it soon, because otherwise, EU interns may use the dollar/Euro value of volunteer hours that UN Volunteers, IFRC, ILO & others are promoting to sue you for back pay.

My previous blogs on this subject:

Note that the links within these blogs may not work, as I moved all of my blogs from Posterous to WordPress a few months ago, and it broke all of the internal links. Also, some web pages on other organization’s sites have moved since I linked to such, and I either don’t know or haven’t been able to find a new location for the material.

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