Greens MEP: Unpaid internships ‘unacceptable’

Nearly 100 young persons gathered around Schuman Circle to protest the plight of unpaid interns on Monday (20 February).

Brussels Interns NGO (BINGO) organised the protest, which was held during the lunch hour. Many who attended were paid employees— but said they came for the unpaid interns who couldn’t make it due to their jobs. 

“Equal access to fair, quality internships. Or, simply, pay your bloody interns,” Bryn Watkins of BINGO shouted into a megaphone at the start of the event.

Terry Reintke, a German Greens MEP, said the conditions faced by unpaid interns in Europe face are unacceptable.

O’Reilly reprimands EEAS over unpaid internships

European Ombudswoman Emily O’Reilly has today (17 February) criticised the EU’s External Action Service for not paying its interns in foreign delegations and advised an overhaul of the programme to improve access for less well-off young people.

Reintke added that, aside from the struggles interns face, unpaid work allows inequality to grow because it discriminates against those from lower economic classes.

“Who can actually do these internships? If you think about it, many people who might not come from such well-off backgrounds cannot afford to do unpaid internships in the European institutions.”

“It has a negative impact on the people themselves, but also on the lack of taxation. It also often replaces labor— and we have a massive problem with unemployment in Europe. So you create a situation where many young people are so desperate that they would do anything just to get a perspective,” Reintke said.

Youth leader: 'We need to stop internships replacing real jobs'

Internships should be a proper learning experience, with good supervision and guidance, says Johanna Nyman. It should also have a positive, supportive working environment with an opportunity for career development and – ideally – a job at the end of the internship.

Emily Stewart, Secretary of  the GNB Trade Union in Brussels, said she has never been an unpaid intern simply because she cannot afford to be.

“There should be a European effort to make sure people are not being exploited wherever they are,” Stewart said. 

The European Youth Forum stood in solidarity with BINGO at the protest. 

“There is a general trend of unpaid work becoming more common. That’s a big challenge in the modern economy- we are not creating enough jobs,” said Allan Päll from the European Youth Forum.