NUJ urges unpaid editorial interns to sue for back-pay

The move could lead to hundreds of journalism interns claiming back thousands from publishers.

The National Union of Journalists is urging those who have taken up unpaid editorial internships to get in touch and claim back unpaid wages.

It is a move which could see hundreds of journalism interns claim back thousands from publishers. Many UK magazines, newspapers and websites take on unpaid journalism interns for several months at a time.

Jobs website Gorkana is currently advertising 22 editorial intern positions.

The NUJ initiative follows a judgment given at Reading Employment Tribunal in November 2009 in favour of an intern who worked for a London production company.

Nicola Vetta had agreed to receive only expenses, but later decided to seek payment and the tribunal recognised that she was entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "A campaign drawing together trade unions and other organisations opposed to this cheap labour merry-go-round is now essential and we will play our part in the campaign to bring exploitative employers to book, using minimum wage legislation and other legal means, to steadily change internship culture from one of exploitation to one of genuine learning opportunities.

"This practice continues to exploit dreams and exclude new talent, undermining the diversity of our profession, just when we should be nurturing and supporting the people coming into the industry."

According to the NUJ, interns need to lodge tribunal claims no later than three months after they believe payment would have been due.

The union advises that former interns can claim up to six years after the event through the county courts. But it states that minimum wage rules do not apply to students on work experience placements - which are typically limited to one or two weeks.

The NUJ has urged former interns to email: interns@londonfreelance.org.

This piece appeared originally in Press Gazette.