Tag Archives: ethical

Involving volunteers: a cop out for paying staff?

Nurses in the Philippines are angry. They are being forced to work for free, or for a stipend on which they cannot live, while the hospitals where they are working call them “volunteers.” Some hospitals are even charging nurses for their “volunteer” work experience. Thousands of graduate nurses are paying hospitals and working for months without salaries under the guise of “training,” so the nurses can gain work experience and have an improved chance of being employed as a regular staff eventually. As a result of this exploitation, nurses have filed cases against four hospitals through the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment – National Labor Relations Commission in February and March. Nurses have also sought the help of a Philippines political party, the Ang Nars Party, which has been using its Facebook page to highlight their campaign against what they are calling “false volunteerism”. (Thanks, oh-so-awesome DJ Cronin, for the heads up about this situation!)

You can read more about this situation at the Nursing News, March 2, 2017, but be warned: this is a click-bait site, packed with advertising banners and in-text advertising links.

I am, of course, outraged about this situation in the Philippines. It’s the same outrage that prompted me to call on the United Nations to defend its involvement of full-time, unpaid interns. It’s not only horrible that these nurses are being exploited; these kinds of actions create campaigns opposed to some or all volunteering (unpaid work). No doubt the hospitals in the Philippines have happily talked about the value of volunteering only in terms of money saved in not paying staff, just as ILO, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, UNV, and others have encouraged them to do.  The result of this exploitation will be a further backlash against all volunteering in hospitals in the Philippines – and beyond. The fight against unpaid internships hurts volunteering. And all of this is because so many organizations see volunteers only as a way to not pay staff, to save money.

If you do not have a  written statement that explains explicitly why your organization reserves certain tasks / assignments / roles for volunteers, including unpaid interns, and that statement has NOTHING to do with not having enough money to pay staff, then you have no business involving volunteers, or unpaid interns, or whatever it is you want to call people you aren’t paying for work.

Good luck to the nurses in the Philippines. And good luck to hospitals in justifying future engagement of volunteers after making so many enemies to the term.

Also see:

Pizzeria tries to recruit unpaid interns, feels Internet’s wrath

Ah, the smell of volunteer exploitation in the morning…

Roberta’s, a famous, hip restaurant in New York City that sells $18 pizzas is (was?) seeking “unpaid interns” to work in its community garden.

Yes, I find it outrageous. And so did a LOT of folks.

Here is a blog I wrote back in May 2012 about various organizations recruiting unpaid interns, and the interns being upset at being called “volunteers.” The title, When to NOT Pay Interns, is meant to be provocative, but, make no mistake: I’m on the side of those interns that SHOULD be paid – like those at Roberta’s.

Note: some of the links in the blog may not work; I just switched blog providers, and while all of the blogs transferred over no problem, I’m still working on fixing the links. And as I’m not a not-for-profit organization, and as I cannot afford to pay an assistant, no, I am NOT recruiting “unpaid interns” to help me. Argh.