A brief look at last year’s developments with regards to Intern pay, a story that the BBC News website is has just updated under its Education section.
Last year, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) argued for a 'training wage' of £2.50 for those on internships of three months or more as a means to 'boost UK productivity'. Unpaid intern work is of inherently unequal access, because those people with good connections and from wealthier backgrounds are much more likely and capable of finding and staying on an unpaid internship.
However, the ‘training wage’ recommended by the CIPD is still well below the minimum wage. In fact, of those researched in a 2010 survey by the CIPD, half of the organisations that take on internships paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Following this, the Institute for Public Policy Research and the campaign group Internocracy pointed out that many interns could be legally defined as a ‘worker’ under NMW legislation, and those interns that had not been paid this wage could launch tribunal claims for back-payment of wages. Were the CIPD members hoping to avoid such tribunal claims by encouraging the government to pass their 'training wage' instead? It is also the case that the CIPD’s recommendation ignores those interns whose placements are under three months.
The CIPD's 'Blueprint for Growth' also suggested the introduction of a formal mediation process for workplace disputes in order to prevent as many as possible ending up at employment tribunal. It would seem the CIPD is hoping to use the legal process for its members to clamp down on militant activity by workers, by stifling it in more official procedures.
Workers cannot rely on reformist campaign groups like Internocracy that collaborate with the bosses and companies. Even if they are successful in pressurising the government to grant the NMW to all internships, then as any worker who already earns this and over already knows, interns will still face the same issues with bosses in their workplace.
A strong national workers movement of interns would not only be more successful in gaining the NMW, but would also be well placed to defend themselves in the workplace in general, and the SF industrial strategy can be applied with this in mind as any other industrial situation.