OUSU passes motion on paid internships

first_imgA motion demanding that interns are paid was passed at OUSU Council on Wednesday night.The motion, proposed by Ben Lyons, notes that unpaid work is “essentially inaccessible for those from lower income backgrounds.”The MPs for Oxford East and Oxford West were also contacted to raise awareness of the issue through a letter signed by 15 JCR Presidents.Lyons is co-director of the Intern Aware campaign, which is supported by the NUS. He recently set up a Facebook group “Interns Must Be Paid The Minimum Wage” and “was amazed when in a very short time over 2,000 people joined.”Lyons said, “The answer to the problem of social mobility lies not in kitemark standards or small-scale loans to interns. It lies in the Government’s own National Minimum Wage legislation. Currently interns are being treated as employees, without their rights – or, crucially, their wages.“The Reading employment tribunal ruled in November that expenses-only internships are illegal. Intern Aware believes it is only through clarifying and implementing this law that real change can be made.”The letter to MPs states, “It is a basic principle that no career path should be closed. It is an even more basic principle that people doing work should be paid for it.The current system of internships depends on geographical, social and financial advantages that prevent social mobility and will lead to ever increasing inequality within our country.”Jonny Medland commented, “It’s great news that Oxford students are leading the national campaign to end unpaid internships. Many students want to take up internships but are unable to do it as they need to support themselves and their families. Ensuring that the valuable work which interns do is recognised with a decent wage is crucial both for social mobility and to ensure that leading professions are open to all.“It’s also important that internships are publicised effectively – the danger otherwise is that regardless of how well interns are paid, only a narrow subset of society will even know that internships exist in the first place”.The Intern Aware campaign has some high profile supporters, including Phil Woolas, Nick Palmer and Glenda Jackson.An amendment to the motion was also passed, which highlighted the importance of increasing access to internship opportunities through improved publicity. All discussions and motions resulting from this motion must now also consider access.Hannah Cusworth, OUSU’s Academic Affairs Officer, who proposed the amendment commented, “While I think it is admirable that the motion is highlighting the lack of social mobility raised by the Milburn report, my biggest issue is with lack of access.” She explained that for many people the problem is a lack of information about what is on offer, as “internships are often done on an informal basis, and rely on connections”.last_img read more