Ed Miliband has committed the party to “look closely” at the issue of unpaid internships in the party’s upcoming policy review. In a letter to campaigning group Intern Aware, Miliband said:
“[The prevalence of unpaid internships] prevents young people with modest means from getting on and achieving their aspirations. It is unfair and unrepresentative, and it must change. I have not taken on unpaid interns to work in my office. I have also encouraged other colleagues in the Labour Party, including members of the shadow cabinet, to do the same – and we will look closely at this issue in our policy review”.
This follows Miliband’s committment during the leadership race to campaign for the minimum wage to apply to all interns, when he pledged:
“If I am elected leader of the Labour Party I will campaign for Labour’s Minimum Wage Act to be fully enforced so that employers must pay their interns what they are due.”
In response to Miliband’s letter, Intern Aware co-director Gus Baker said:
“It is highly significant that the Labour Party will be investigating ending unpaid internships…we are concerned to note however that there have been at least 18 documented cases of unpaid internships being advertised within the Labour Party since Ed Miliband became leader. Ed is right to say that this practice is unfair and must be stopped. We welcome the policy review but call on Ed Miliband to make sure all interns in the Labour Party are paid at least the minimum wage.”
Parliamentary internships are a divisive issue within the Labour Party, with MPs often caught between the need for greater manpower and limited funds for staff. Hazel Blears wrote recently for LabourList on the problem – and a potential solution.
For many people unpaid internships are an invaluable opportunity that gives them the experience and skills that help them move on to paid work in politics. But for others – especially those without independent funding and those living outside London, it’s an opportunity that isn’t currently obtainable.