Artsjobs’ decision to temporarily suspend advertisements for unpaid work, voluntary placements and other such ‘opportunities’ is certainly indicative of a more positive action against exploitative cultural work, however it is also important to consider that some voluntary placements, expenses-paid internships, etc can actually be valuable and worthwhile provided the worker is aware of their rights and is happy with the conditions of their work. The greatest problem is that we live and work in a country where the cultural labour force is insufficiently informed about their own rights and laws. For this reason it is vital that social networks, forums and listings sites strive to provide their users with information of what different kinds of work may entail and of other resources that are available to them. For example there are a considerable number of useful tools and resources, not just for the cultural sector, which remain unused and under-promoted. (Such as the TUC’s campaign website www.rightsforinterns.org.uk, see also The Arts Group’s Emerging Worker Report, lobbying for the implementation of a recognised and legislated practice for emerging workers http://www.artsgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/EmergingWorkersFinalWeb.pdf)
Do you remember BECTU and London Dream’s tribunal ruling which said that unpaid internships are illegal?
BECTU (The Media and Entertainment Union) received much criticism by independent workers in the film industry about this legal action, some of which came from Shooting People, the independent filmmakers network. After months of low intensity warfare through their websites and blogs, the two organisations finally decided to have a public debate and an upfront discussion on internships, freelabour and the limits of applying the National Minimum Wage legislation to independent cultural projects.
Some Carrot Workers attended the discussion and were happy to find many points of contact and shared struggles between filmmaking and the arts: the issue of unpaid independent labour, the legal grey area of freelancing and internships in independent projects, the jarring relationship between ‘creative’ work and the right to wages, the question of individual authorship and how to create legal and organisational structures where collective decisions are taken about a ‘product’ that is the result of collective labour.
The event was titled:
“Shooting yourself in the foot? A Debate about Low Budget Collaborations and the National Minimum Wage”
Working for free is the only way for new entrants to get a foot in the door of the film and television industry but are you shooting yourself in the foot?
Jess Search from Shooting People and Martin Spence, assistant general secretary of BECTU, will be among the key speakers to address these issues. They will be joined by Benetta Adamson (TV-Wrap) and Chris Jones (co-author The Guerilla Film-makers Handbook). The debate will be chaired by Stephen Overell, associate director, the Work Foundation.
The full debate is now available on YouTube:
Apart from the inspiring idea of thinking through a ‘creative’ cooperative model for cultural work (Bectu’s working on it, apparently), in the course of the evening someone said that cinema is a hybrid, a combination of art and commerce – well, we strongly disagree!
This distinction once again relegates art to the romantic idea of free expression and unquantifiable passion that emotionally and conceptually justifies much exploitation in the cultural sector. Art too is labour: when will we finally see an intern winning a court case against exploitative work conditions in the arts?
The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not
With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.
Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern. Continue reading
article from New Statesman, 18 February 2010 http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/02/minimum-wage-interns-mps
MPs’ dependence on unpaid interns gives those from richer backgrounds a headstart on breaking into politics.
House of poshos
Charlie Sonnex works the night shift at Sainsbury’s. Last year, he worked next to Andy Coulson, the Conservatives’ director of communications, as an intern at the party’s headquarters in Westminster. He wanted to stay on, but after nine months of working unpaid, he couldn’t afford it. “All the interns there had rich parents and savings, so I guess the office just had enough applications to keep it going.”
25 November 2009
The Employment Tribunals, sitting in Reading, have ruled that workers engaged on an expenses-only basis are entitled to payment at least in line with the national minimum wage, in addition to payment for the holiday they accrue.
The decision arises from a case brought by Nicola Vetta, a former art department assistant, against London Dreams Motion Pictures Ltd.
Read the full article on BECTU’s website: http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/548
The verdict will set a precendent that could be extended to unpaid internships in art galleries and other art organisations!
Quote this verdict to your employer and at your internship interview: interns are workers and should be paid!
‘Resiste – interns rise up‘ is the story of the capitalistically inclined intern Till and the leftist-activist almost-french girl Sydelia. Whilst Till has the idea of opening a consultancy for interns – delighted to have found a plausible market niche – Sydelia wants to tackle the problem at its origins and organize a revolt of interns.
Equipped with french revolutionary spirit and much energy, she does her best to convince Till of her plans. But his mind is made up: it’s about profit, not protest! As both realise that they don’t go well together, but at the same time quite need each other, there’s already a bunch of interns gathering around them, shaping up for the revolution: a general strike of interns that will bring Germany to a halt.
Arts job: ACTORS FOR PART OF POST WW2 EASTERN EUROPEAN INDUSTRIAL WORKER
Applications close: Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Employer type: Government
Opportunity type: Volunteer
Category: Visual Arts
Location: United Kingdom
ACTORS FOR PART OF POST WW2 EASTERN EUROPEAN INDUSTRIAL WORKER
Basic travel and lunch expenses will be reimbursed.
Date: 15 October – 10 January
It is envisaged that performers will work 1 to 3 days per week for a minimum period of 1 month.
For his ﬁrst solo show in the UK, the artist has meticulously constructed an
installation modelled on a disused World War Two era bunker, replete with derelict
industrial equipment- corroded pipes and boilers, rusted generators, electric gauges and other
obsolete machines- as well as old cans, food stuffs and survival supplies. On entering this dimly
lit space through a set of heavy rusted doors, the viewer is forced to negotiate a precarious bridge
leading to a set of stairs that descends into a concrete bunker, all hinting at the menacing nature of
the space. A neglected railway track runs the entire length of the gallery, with a hand operated
draisine occasionally ferrying personnel from one end of the space to the other alongside a warren
of dark and damp rooms which house defunct communication systems and work stations strewn
with old instruments.
We are looking for a number of performers to pay an integral role in this theatrical installation as
uniformed personnel. This is not an interactive role, but requires mostly non speaking
improvisation with the props in the space to further hint at the narrative in this ﬁlm set like
Males, playing age 25-55, to play the part of European World War II bunker workers. This non
speaking part requires wearing uniform, using hand-operated rail cart, inspecting rooms and light
An interest in modern and contemporary art history.
We are looking for actors to perform in the Gallery for a minimum of one day per week on a 1 to
3 month basis for the duration of the exhibition, including some weekends and evenings. The
daily hours will be from 11am to 8pm.
Full brieﬁng will be given by the curators of the exhibition and the artist.
This role is voluntary, but basic travel and lunch expenses will be reimbursed.
Interviews to be held on Monday, 12/10/2009 and Tuesday, 13/10/2009.
Closing date for applications: 07/10/2009 6pm. No late entries shall be accepted. Please note that
only successful applicants will be contacted.