Will Artjobs reintroduce free labour ads :-( ?

29 Apr

[This article was originally posted on 29.4.2011. We have received a few emails and comments that demanded a recognition of the efforts of the Arts Council to enforce legal requirements surrounding unpaid positions. We have now amended the post below and clarified our point. Thanks to all who took the time to write to us.]

Last summer we were thrilled to report that the Arts Council put a stop to advertisements of unpaid positions through their webpage Artjobs. After a few months, however, a disclaimer appeared which refers to the current ambiguous legislation around internships and volunteering (see at the end of this post). We have been told that there has been no increase in unpaid ads since then, which is great news, yet we feel that the position taken by Artjobs is still not strong enough, and could be seen as a step towards the return of unpaid internships under the guise of voluntary positions, especially given the recent promotion of voluntarism by the coalition government.

As we have written elsewhere, the question of free labour cannot be resolved by appealing to Minimum Wage Regulations alone, especially in a sector that relies upon personal relationships and informal agreements. There is a sense that the AC is shying away from confronting the contradiction between the decrease in funding opportunities and the demand to keep up the facade of a thriving cultural sector that is often supported through low levels of pay and overwork.

For instance, a recent consultation with stakeholders reports that:

“Many consultees expressed concern about low levels of pay in the arts, and the struggle for financial security that many artists experience.”

To which the AC response was:

“The issue of pay levels is beyond our remit, but we will continue to work with partners to encourage greater investment in the sector and the creation of new opportunities for artists to earn a living.”

Here’s the announcement from Artjobs.org.uk:

Unpaid opportunities

We have made some changes to our posting pages and are now trialing unpaid opportunities on Arts Jobs.

We recognise that there is great value in people having access to proper work experience, where it is offered and arranged properly and is a mutually beneficial arrangement, but that this should never be used as a way of attempting to circumvent National Minimum Wage Regulations.

Please ensure that your posts are within our terms and conditions and do not contravene National Minimum Wage Regulations.

2 Responses to “Will Artjobs reintroduce free labour ads :-( ?”

  1. Joolsy April 30, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    You are entirely wrong, the quote you give refers to the fact Artsjobs withdrew unpaid ads completely (Seot 2010) and in Jan 2011 reintroduced them providing they adhere to certain (legal) conditions.
    If you’d received their emails for the last few months you’d see that there has been no increase in the number of unpaid ads and that they are actually doing a good job educating those who attempt to post illegal ads. Try and post one and see what information you are supplied with.

    Might I suggest you consider removing this erroneous article.

  2. Joolsy April 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    “yet we feel that the position taken by Artjobs is still not strong enough, and could be seen as a step towards the return of unpaid internships under the guise of voluntary positions, especially given the recent promotion of voluntarism by the coalition government.”

    Have you even bothered to ask Artsjobs, on many occassions they have stated that they support the paying of artists and workers the NMW, its even written in their policies.
    The Artsjobs website now actively educates those who try and post unpaid jobs. With this new initiative they are not allowing those who seek to post illegally. They haven’t changed their position at all and the number of unpaid ads has declined to virtually nil. There is no indication that they wish to change this and the statement that you are highlighting has been in place since January 2011.
    This is a non-story and you’ve gotten your facts wrong. Try and post an unpaid ad and see what happens. There’s even a quick ‘report’ button for readers you think the ad is illegal.

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