In the coming weeks, the Unite Youth Dublin Activist Group (UY-DAG) will be taking part in a series of actions under the banner of the #WorkMustPay Campaign to directly challenge the acceptability of employers taking on unpaid JobBridge interns instead of providing even the basic respect of a minimum wage for workers. These actions will be a joint effort on the part of the Connolly Youth Movement, Sinn Féin Republican Youth and UY-DAG.
After the government has proven to be so thoroughly unresponsive to polite reservations, academic criticism and political protest against their use of unpaid internships as a form of ‘labour activation’; a change of tactics has been well overdue in campaigning. Instead of lobbying politicians and hoping for a change in policy, we will be challenging any employer which profits from the use of free JobBridge labour. Peaceful pickets, chants and leaflets will be used to encourage such employers to take down any current JobBridge adverts, take on no further interns and commit to the basic respect of a day’s work = a day’s pay for future employees. We will not be seeking the immediate abandonment of all JobBridge positions as the unexpected loss of €50 a week for the person involved would cause unnecessary hardship. Prior warning will be provided to all businesses engaged with as part of this campaign and we hope that this will be enough for them to reconsider their position before action has to be taken by #WorkMustPay activists.
Responding to Potential Criticism
Some may say it is unfair that we focus on businesses that are only making use of a fully legal and government approved program. We would reply by saying that an under 25 year old receives only €150 a week through this scheme and there is nothing fair about trying to make that stretch to cover rent, food, transport, medical costs and any other expenses. The use of unpaid internships has eliminated job opportunities that used to provide a survivable income for people trying to make ends meet and it has increasingly become a scheme where employers can ‘try before they buy’ future workers, with no guarantee they will do the latter. We hope to create an environment where this practice becomes less acceptable and the amount of potential wage paying jobs being turned into internships is reduced.
An Effective Tactic: Initial Success for #WorkMustPay
#WorkMustPay activists were intending to hold a picket outside the City Pharmacy on Dame Street which was advertising for a stock control and administrative position but this was cancelled today after this business responded positively to our request and removed this JobBridge advertisement without filling the position. While pleased with this initial success, we will be distributing more advance warnings to businesses that take on JobBridge interns with a view to engaging in peaceful pickets when adverts are not removed. The focus on these actions will be on employers which are advertising for intern positions which would have been wage paying entry-level jobs prior to the introduction of JobBridge e.g. kitchen staff, porters, retail staff, caretakers, etc.