Lewes Forum thread

Go on, tell 'em what you think

Lewes Forum New message


On 26 Apr 2012 at 7:56pm angry again wrote:
Viva Lewes advertising for an intern... I always knew they existed in some sort of
parallel universe but hadn't realized that they were so politically off! internships are a
scourge and have allowed patronage amongst the privileged to endure. what
working class kid can work for free for four months? And why should they! It makes
me sick. The justification - giving opportunity. The reality - unpaid labour.
Viva Lewes you are misplaced here in Lewes.

On 27 Apr 2012 at 8:09am Pete wrote:
I agree AA, internships should be subject to the minimum wage legislation.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 8:42am Southover Queen wrote:
They are, Pete. NMW legislation is pretty clear: if someone is given set hours and set tasks then they're a worker and they are legally entitled to the minimum wage. The problem is getting HMRC (who are responsible for enforcing the law) actually to do anything about it. It's not very surprising when you consider that the current government actively supports "internships" and sees nothing wrong at all in granting favoured access to the children of the rich.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 9:56am Local wrote:
For God's sake, will you lefty types please get real!
We do not live in utopia. People will do favours for friends. There will always be a need for people to show initiative and 'get on' in an unequal marketplace.
Why molly-coddle kids into thinking the world is always fair, only for them to find out the hard way that those unreasonable people in China have beaten their company to the contract and that they are to be made redundant after all?
On 27 Apr 2012 at 10:36am Southover Queen wrote:
On the one hand regulars here moan on and on about young people sitting around doing nothing claiming benefits, and then they bang on like Local about molly-coddling kids.

You really can't have it both ways: unpaid internships are - IMHO - both unethical and illegal because they effectively only allow those from well-off backgrounds to take them up. The result of the "internship" scourge is to prevent anyone who doesn't have family money from getting into film, the broadcast media, journalism, fashion and many other fields because unpaid "internships" (aka slave labour, very often) have entirely replaced entry level positions. Anyone who actually need to be paid for their labour need not apply.

That is why the minimum wage legislation exists in the first place - and I note that this government has taken no steps to remove it from the statute book. Viva Lewes might do well to check on the recent case of Keri Hudson versus Village Voice which resulted in the employers having to cough up several weeks back pay plus paid holiday.

Check it out here »
On 27 Apr 2012 at 11:05am Clifford wrote:
Viva Lewes goes straight into the bin from now on.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 1:07pm Viva Islington! wrote:
Its got nothing to do with middle class or privileged kids being able to afford to work for nothing and everything to do with p*ss poor business practice and the desire to openly exploit someone.
How interesting is it that the "advert" for the legal slave is the first item on Viva Islington's home page this week - shows just how out of touch they are.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 3:31pm Ed Can Do wrote:
I'm pretty sure nobody is going to be forced into applying for an internship. Whilst it's true that a period of extended work experience certainly favours those who can afford to work for free for a period of time, one would imagine that the alternative would be Viva not taking on anyone at all. It'd be lovely if they could afford to take on an apprentice for example (NMW for apprentices is £2.60 per hour btw) but ,aybe they don't have any spare cash and want to give someone an opportunity to get a bit of experience in a working environment? Forcing them to pay full whack or not take on anyone smacks a little of cutting off ones' nose to spite ones' face.

It's not as if media internships are the only route into work favouring the rich anyway, it's just a popular bette noir at the moment. I don't hear any of you complaining about the massive cost of obtaining the professional qualifications you need to become an accountant, or lawyer, or doctor and who ever walked into a job in politics without doing some "volunteer" work at a local party level first?

The fact of the matter is that companies don't have a lot of spare cash at the moment and rather than gamble on paying a completely inexperienced recruit, if they're going to pay someone then it'll be someone who's already done the job. If there were no internships then how would anyone ever get an entry-level job in the current climate?
On 27 Apr 2012 at 6:38pm Southover Queen wrote:
The thing about the cost of obtaining a professional qualification is that at the end of it the chances are you can make a very good living indeed. Believe me that is very far from the truth in the creative sector, where a large proportion of the workforce will always struggle to make a decent living. And before you dismiss the creative sector, it is now something like the third most valuable to the treasury in terms of income and deserves some measure of protection for that reason alone. Its future health is simply not assured because of the problems the workforce have in establishing and maintaining a career.

"If there were no internships then how would anyone ever get an entry-level job in the current climate?" Why should the applicant bear all the risk? They would take on someone after inviting applications and appointing someone with the potential to learn. That's how it's always worked until recently: it's only because of the proliferation of "internships" that nurturing talent because it will serve your business well seems like a ludicrous idea.

I'm not against volunteering in the slightest: I have spent many years doing precisely that for the benefit of my co-workers. I am against schemes which effectively exclude those who cannot afford to work for nothing. There are several ways that Viva Lewes could offer opportunities to contribute to its magazine without straying into ethically or legally suspect territory, but the current offer doesn't appear to allow for that.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 7:01pm Clifford wrote:
How did it go? The people at Viva Lewes saw all the controversy there had been about employers and political parties taking on youngsters and expecting them to work for nothing and instead of joining the campaign to prevent this contemptible practice said, 'Golly, that sounds a good idea.'
On 27 Apr 2012 at 7:04pm Rickshaweddie wrote:
I finished college in the recession of 1989/90 , no jobs, no prospects, no savings, though was offered filing "experience" at the National Rivers Authority. Spent all my last pennies getting to and fro there for a month driving 150 miles a day round commute.
They realised I was a little more intelligent than some of the filers and I was fast tracked to become an Enviroment Protction Agent. I had no leg up, no favours, just took the work experience on the hope that my work ethic would shine through.
Get ober it the rest of you, belive in yourselves ability to show through and a job will be forthcoming.
Don't fall back to the predictable chat of the guardian reading proletariat.
Get out there, and get the experience
On 27 Apr 2012 at 7:58pm JustAKid wrote:
@angryagain, in all the vacuity and inanition of your opening statement you have shown yourself to be very obtuse to the benefits of internships. The most antagonising and frankly worrying aspect of your opening point is the way in which it is structured, after all how are we expected to take your point seriously when you show no respect to the English language.
Aside from that I am very keen on the prospects that many internships deliver and feel that they are truly open to potential employees of all backgrounds.
On 27 Apr 2012 at 8:48pm JustAAdult wrote:
Go on admit it, you work for Viva Lewes don't you? (Your writing style is as pretentious as theirs, so must be true).
On 27 Apr 2012 at 10:42pm Clifford wrote:
The sadness is that people have been so hammered into submission that they are prepared to argue that working for nothing is a very good thing. One thing a young person needs if they are to take advantage of an internship is parents with enough disposable income to keep them into adulthood - and we know what that means.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 12:20am JustAKid wrote:
@Clifford, you counter argument is absolutely emetic. How much disposable income do you purpose it would take to an upcoming writing enthusiast, who most likely has the opportunity to live at home with their family therefore benefiting from paying fewer bills would require in order to fully appreciate the experiences that any internship offers. However invidious it is of me to address @Vivaislington comments, it demonstrates a pure lack of judgment and understanding to suggest the opportunities that Viva Lewes offers is like that of slavery. There are many advantages and disadvantages of the ever increasing methods to promote a greater work ethic in younger adults and to furthermore provide many different gateways into a working environment.
In future please take the time to research a greater understanding of topic you so delicately share you view upon.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 10:10am Southover Queen wrote:
I've resisted the temptation to reply to JustAKid up to now, not least because I thought he must be a plant. No-one could seriously accuse others of writing badly while themselves regurgitating the thesaurus wholesale. It wouldn't be fair to mock, I thought.

Then he comes up with this: "@Clifford, you counter argument is absolutely emetic. How much disposable income do you purpose it would take to an upcoming writing enthusiast, who most likely has the opportunity to live at home with their family therefore benefiting from paying fewer bills would require in order to fully appreciate the experiences that any internship offers. " Leaving aside the typo, why not just say "sickening"? "Purpose" I imagine stands in for "purport", when what he actually means is "think" or "suggest". I could go on but I won't because it's cruel, but JustAKid, here's some advice: on current showing you've got a fair way to go in the stylistic department.

Secondly, how do you know what Viva Islington's life experience is? Or Clifford's or mine, for that matter? "In future please take the time to research a greater understanding of topic you so delicately share you view upon." Honestly, how amazingly (and laughably) pompous.

Thirdly, you yourself shoot your own argument full of holes with this statement "an upcoming writing enthusiast, who most likely has the opportunity to live at home with their family therefore benefiting from paying fewer bills ". Quite. Many "young writing enthusiasts" don't have this option. They don't live locally, or they have a family who are not able or willing to support the "young writing enthusiast" for four months, or they have to seek paid work to pay their share of the bills.

Your "counterargument" actually sums up my point nicely. Unpaid internships are the preserve of those who by virtue of their social and economic circumstances can afford to contribute their labour for nothing. This is skewing access to sought after jobs in our society, exactly as I said earlier.

"In future please take the time to research a greater understanding of topic you so delicately share you view upon." Quite. My point exactly.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 12:39pm Clifford wrote:
Southover Queen has said everything that needs saying about JustAKid's pretentiously written comment, and a lot better than I could.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 4:55pm JustAKid wrote:
@Southover Queen, thank you for taking the time to point out some of my grammatical errors.
"In future please take the time to research a greater understanding of topic you so delicately share you view upon." It is truly absurd how you have interpreted this as an attempt by myself to suggest that I know your life experiences - A big generalisation on your behalf. My counter argument simply states that there are many family that are willing to help their children gain an advantage. Perhaps your resentment regarding internships stems from your own failures or unwillingness to offer a helping hand. I truly believe, with a can-do attitude, that internships are available to all people from all social and economical backgrounds. You only have to watch The Pursuit of Happiness and the life experiences of Chris Gardner to realise that there is substance behind my argument. However it is evident that someone like yourself would find it a lot easier to simply point the finger and look for someone else to blame.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 5:32pm Southover Queen wrote:
I beg to differ. You are making enormous assumptions about me and my life experience. Your biggest mistake is jumping to the conclusion that I don't know what I'm talking about or that my disagreeing with you is somehow borne of "failure or unwillingness to offer a helping hand". It isn't, you know. My insight is based on many very successful years in a media career and in particular of watching in horror as all the entry level jobs disappear in favour of illegally unpaid "interns". I have been actively campaigning to ensure that fewer new entrants are exploited and understand their legal rights.

So you see I have absolutely nothing to gain materially. I'm actually interested in protecting the future of our media and making it possible for the likes of you to have a career at all. At the moment media jobs are heading fast for hobbyist status occupied as a sort of lollipop by people who don't need to make a living, and that's bad for everyone.
"However it is evident that someone like yourself would find it a lot easier to simply point the finger and look for someone else to blame." You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, and actually I slightly wonder whether the boot might not be on the other foot.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 5:44pm JustAKid wrote:
The boot is not on the other foot.
Aside from that, well played.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 7:40pm Woody wrote:
Interesting debate. How many of the participants run, or have run their own business?
On 28 Apr 2012 at 9:02pm Southover Queen wrote:
I do.

And I cannot conceive of an occasion when I would expect someone to contribute their labour without being paid, except - and this is why I say that Viva Lewes could easily find a way of inviting people to contribute - where they and I are collaborating equally on a joint project. That person would be someone with meaningful experience and skills which they would offer in the knowledge that any gain we might jointly achieve would be shared between us. That simply cannot be the case with a new entrant.

The law actually reflects this. It is quite legal for a self-employed person to decide to work for less than the minimum wage; in my industry they would be characterised as a "Head of Department". Anyone who is not a head of department must by law be paid the NMW if they are given set tasks and set times.
The lower rate Ed Can Do quoted earlier is the apprentice rate, and the legal definition of what constitutes an apprentice is quite tight - see the link. Essentially, the employer needs to show that the apprentice is receiving structured training, otherwise it won't count.

I'm all in favour of young people receiving training and experience: I just think that they should be paid for their efforts except in very particular circumstances. And as it happens, that's what the law says too.
On 28 Apr 2012 at 9:03pm Southover Queen wrote:
Ooops sorry forgot the link

Check it out here »
On 28 Apr 2012 at 10:35pm Woody wrote:
Young people, without any experience, knowledge of product or industry skills are queueing around the block for internships at our company. Surely, a month spent in a work environment learning from people willing to invest time in them with advice, guidance and care plus the prospect of full-time employment afterwards, is preferable to applying for dead-end jobs or sitting at home watching telly. If a company was asking for envelope stuffers to be employed for zero pay, then that is wrong. Experience, knowledge and 'work-life skills' gained from an internship are invaluable.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 12:25am Local wrote:
So how's your active campaign going, SQ? Please tell more...
On 29 Apr 2012 at 7:55am Clifford wrote:
However it is dressed up, what supporters of internship are saying on here is that it is justifiable for young people to be expected to work for nothing - that is, for their parents to subsidise the employer.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 9:57am Earl of Lewes wrote:
I think an internship is just about acceptable if it really improves an individual's chance of finding employment. Even those of us on low incomes would consider taking out a loan or extending an overdraft for a month of unpaid work, if we felt confident that we were much more likely to find work at the end.

However, there are unscrupulous employers out there who are just looking for an easy way to improve their bottom line profit. I know because I worked for one of them. I ran a department that was doing very well and needed to employ more people, but the main business was allegedly cash-starved and they couldn't afford to take anyone on (perhaps the managing director shouldn't have paid himself £100,000 a year until the business was on a surer footing).

Anyway, one day the MD came up to me and started talking about getting interns. I asked him what skills an intern would learn and how likely they'd be to get a job with us at the end and he looked at me as if I was mad. So until he came up with a fair proposal, I refused to get an internee and wouldn't budge an inch. The MD was furious and I nearly lost my job, but I had the law on my side.

I suspect that there are a lot of people like my former managing director who like the idea of employing 12 people but only having to pay ten of them. I'm all in favour of work experience, but this was just plain exploitation.

On 29 Apr 2012 at 10:20am Southover Queen wrote:
Very well, thank you so much for asking Local. In seven or eight years we've delivered a large petition to government, secured considerable and ongoing coverage in both the specialist and the mainstream press and most importantly shamed several companies into abiding by the law. Many other media companies have put in guidelines and internal monitoring to ensure that they comply with the law. There have been landmark cases in journalism, film and television and theatre; I have no doubt there will be more.

If you google something like "media internships nmw law" you'll see how effective we've been, in fact. Try it: you never know, you might find it enlightening.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 11:00am someone else wrote:
I'm a senior manager at a company in London employing about 20 people. There are no circumstances in which we would 'employ' someone without paying them.

It doesn't seem that complicated to me: we are paid for our services and we need staff to carry out those services. We try to make a profit whilst paying staff as much as we can. Anyone who works for us has to be generating revenue or there's no point in them being there, so why would we not pay them?

If our business model was contingent upon the notion of not paying any staff, then it would mean we were doing something wrong. It's not sustainable.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 11:15am Southover Queen wrote:
It isn't sustainable, someone else. The problem in the media in particular is that there is huge downward pressure on budgets from the commissioning bodies (so in television the broadcasters) and one of the ways that producers trim their costs is by "employing" unpaid interns to do a lot of the scut work. In the media the profit margins are often very low, so it really can make a difference if you're saving £5k-£10k in unpaid wages. That has the effect of undercutting the more scrupulous (aka law abiding) employers who struggle to win commissions because of it.

It's not just the media (although that is the area I know about) - the fashion industry could not function without a vast army of unpaid workers, for instance. Any field which seems to offer a bit of "glamour" seems to be at risk, because there's an endless supply of willing "interns" who have been persuaded that this is the only route to paid work in those very competitive sectors.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 2:55pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
I was very disappointed to see the Viva Lewes internship advertised. If it's 3 or 4 months work, it should be paid as such. If it's a trainee posiion it should be paid as such. If it's an apprenticeship it should be paid as such.
Or maybe Viva Lewes would like to offer the position solely to someone claiming benefits, who I believe are allowed to take paid work for a small number of hours a week without it affecting their dole.
There's a difference between young people doing unpaid work experience for a week, and advertising a position for 3-4 months. It definitely sounds like an entry-level job into journalism. I shall be notifying the NUJ.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 3:52pm Clifford wrote:
Exactly Brixtonbelle - my first job on leaving school was as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. They threw me in the deep end, gave me a good b*llocking when I got things wrong, praised me when I got them right - and paid me.
On 29 Apr 2012 at 5:52pm boffin wrote:
Ross Perlin's book - How to earn nothing and learn little in the brave new economy - has excellent material on this subject.
On 30 Apr 2012 at 12:37pm Ed Can Do wrote:
Just to play devil's advocate (For a change), could one not attribute some of the continuing devaluation of entry-level media jobs that SQ is decrying to the massive over-ploliferation of media and journalism related academic courses in recent years? When I did my A-Levels (Mid-90's), media and film studies were relatively new subjects and quite a niche thing, generally taken by people who wanted something a little lighter to go with their three "ologies". Nowadays though, I'd say 80% of CVs we get through the door show someone studying a majority of subjects ending in "Studies", be that film, media, fashion or something similar.

Now this could be due to working in hospitality and attracting those of a more creative bent but with so many people studying a subject with an obvious career path that leads to an industry currently struggling with it's cashflow, is it not inevitable that a surplus of supply of labour and a lack of demand for that labour is inevitably going to push wages down? Add that to the fact that with the governments' dubious tax breaks on film companies over the years making most company bosses tax experts and the first chance to pay these kids even less than the legal minimum is bound to be jumped on.

Not necessarily relevant to Viva's situation but essentially, if you're set on a career that lots of other people want and there aren't many vacancies, you're going to have to jump through some hoops other people don't to get what you want. I can't see many people taking on an internship to be a binman for example, noble profession though it might be.
On 30 Apr 2012 at 1:16pm Southover Queen wrote:
That's material for a whole new thread I think Ed. To a large extent, I'd say the proliferation of those courses is actually a symptom of universities and colleges spotting that there is a big demand for them which means that they'll be well (over?) subscribed. It's resulted in this country producing maybe 10-15000 graduates in media and related fields every year when there is only a tiny fraction of that number of real openings at entry level. There are a few really good courses and their graduates do comparatively well, but there are an awful lot of really rubbish ones.

The sad thing is that in many cases the graduates employers are looking for are *not* media graduates: they want young people who have a wide education, an ability to think critically and are champion problem solvers. You don't need to be a media graduate to fulfil those criteria, and if you also have expertise in nuclear physics, or languages or anthropology (or whatever) then actually you're bringing something else to the table.

The other thing I'd caution against is lumping all "media" into the same basket. Television continues to be a perfectly viable business although the proliferation of channels does put great pressure on budgets: the advertising/licence fee pot is much the same but the number of channels has increased exponentially. Nevertheless it's still quite possible for companies (and individuals) to make a reasonable living once they're established. The same is absolutely not true for print newspapers, which are teetering on the edge of viability, and it's not at all clear what the future holds. That's why journalism is a particularly difficult career path to choose at the moment!

The fact however is that there are laws which govern who must be paid at least the minimum wage, and anyone taking on entry level workers does need to be aware of them. Attaching the label "intern" isn't good enough.
On 30 Apr 2012 at 5:11pm Ed Can Do wrote:
Fair point, when I used to work as an accountant we pretty much discarded every cv that came in from someone with an accounting degree as that tended to mean they thought they knew everything whereas you tend to get taught the entire first year of an accounting degree in the first two days of ICAEW training.

I remember back in the day my brother converted his English degree to a journalism course at Cardiff uni that was supposedly a fast-track straight into the BBC and he did in fact work for them for many years working his way up to foreign corresspondent before he left but he did have to start out making tea at Radio Northampton. They did pay him a living wage for it though.
On 2 May 2012 at 4:55pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
Maybe Viva Lewes should take a leaf out of this journalist's book. (so to speak). A friend tells me they are justifying the internship on their facebook site by claiming it is a great opportunity. In my view it's a job or a traineeship and should be paid as such. Maybe I'll advertise for a cleaner as an 'internship'. It's a great opportunity to learn about real life, after all.

Check it out here »

This thread has reached its limit now
Why not start another one


Lewes Arms Penny 56:132
Lewes Arms Penny

The idea, of course, is that the influx of skilled migrants from Asia will displace lazy Brits from their comfortable white... more
I like the forum and being able to respond to things I agree and don't agree with.