The union says it wants to hear from any former journalism intern who would like legal support from the union to claim unpaid wages. It says it could be possible to recover up to £232 per 40-hour week of the internship.
According to the NUJ, the initiative follows a judgment given in Reading Employment Tribunal in November 2009, in favour of an intern who worked for a London production company. Nicola Vetta had agreed to receive only expenses, but later decided to seek payment after her internship ended. The tribunal recognised that a worker is entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), whether or not they have agreed to work for nothing.
NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: “A campaign drawing together trade unions and other organisations opposed to this cheap labour merry-go-round is now essential and we will play our part in the campaign to bring exploitative employers to book, using minimum wage legislation and other legal means, to steadily change internship culture from one of exploitation to one of genuine learning opportunities.
“This practice continues to exploit dreams and exclude new talent, undermining the diversity of our profession, just when we should be nurturing and supporting the people coming into the industry.”
The NUJ says to recover the NMW through an Employment Tribunal, you will need to make a claim no later than three months after payment would have been due. But former interns can claim up to six years after they finished their unpaid stint, through the county courts. The NMW rules do not apply, however, to students on work experience placements. Internships tend to be longer than work experience, with a greater time commitment and deadlines, and involve making a contribution to the work of the organisation.