Thursday, 25 November 2010

What happened when a workie sent the Indy a bill

I've already written about how the NUJ is taking up the case of unpaid journalism interns and wants to help them claim the national minimum wage for work done for free .

Now Girish Gupta has contacted me about his campaign for those on work experience to be paid the freelance rate for any of their work that is published.

When Gupta invoiced the Independent after a two week placement, during which he had stories published in the paper, he was given short shrift. He has published his email correspondence with executives at the Independent on his own site.

In one email, the Independent's deputy editor Adam Leigh described Gupta as "particularly idiotic" and he was told not to contact the paper again.

Gupta says he believes it is "morally unjustifiable" for the Independent not to pay for work it published. He also says the reason he is targeting the Independent, as opposed to other places he did work experience, is because "it was, by far, the one at which I most did the job of journalists, essentially filling in for a paid freelancer or staffer".

Gupta, now freelancing in Mexico, told me: "I'm sure I won't be having too many bylines in the Independent anytime soon but I hope that other editors can see that I'm doing what I believe to be right. Journalism is meant to be about outing what you think is wrong so hopefully I am doing that."


Fiona O'Cleirigh said...

If Girish was working unpaid in a situation where he would otherwise have been paid, then I would call him an intern. A workie is someone getting experience of a workplace - usually a student or even a schoolchild - rather than someone doing the work of that place.

The difference is more than a quibble. The National Minimum Wage Act applies to interns working for nothing, whereas it does not apply to those on work experience as part of their learning.

Girish, and every other former intern, should - legally - have been paid at least the National Minimum Wage. It is illegal for an employer not to pay it, but widespread malpractice means that many do not choose to realise this.

Anyone who has been in this situation and would like to claim back the NMW they believe they are owed, should contact the National Union of Journalist's Cashback for Interns programme at

Girish Gupta's nerve and rightful self-belief are admirable.

Anonymous said...

Girish sounds like just the kind of
gutsy person we need to be attracting
into our floundering industry,
instead of the servile, chinless
off-spring of the priveleged
mummies and daddies, who can fund
their kids to "work" as unpaid
interns for how ever long it takes
and who love to see the competition
thinned out a bit.

The "liberal" Independent should be
truly ashamed by this episode.
It is pathetic.

Sounds like Girish needs to make use
of the NUJ's excellent iniative to
help ripped-off interns claim back
their wages. As a member of the NUJ's
London Freelance Branch committee, I
am so pleased that my NUJ branch
initiated the "interns cashback"
campaign, which is so important for
all journalists.

Mark Watts

Anonymous said...

Don't encourage him. You're supposed to research things like pay before you start these thing. You are a journalist right?

Fiona O'Cleirigh said...

The Indy is supposed to obey the law. They are employers, right? They exploited a young person's desperation to work, entered into a contract illegal under the National Minimum Wage Act, and then wondered why he did something about it. Well, there are others doing the same thing - as is their right. The shame lies in the fact that they are having to do it at all.