Stop working for free!

Are you a qualified journalist with lots of talent, a creative approach to finding the best stories and a bulging contacts book? Then we want you to work for us …

FOR FREE.

We won’t pay you expenses, we’re not offering you a promise of work in the future but, if you come and join our happy team of interns, or write for us when not at your real job, then we can promise you an ego boost or something to put on your CV.

We’ve all seen these ads. Although mine is less disingenuous than those promising work experience or a step up the career ladder for what are real jobs but with no pay.

The growing acceptance of working for nothing in the journalism industry – either as internships or as wannabe-hacks with real work elsewhere – is ridiculous and more damaging than we seem to admit.

I know the concept of selling one’s labour seems old-fashioned to some but why else do we go to work? Ok, you like your journalism role; perhaps what you do is important, exciting, makes you feel all full of yourself … but if you’re doing it unpaid then you’re being exploited.

Where is the significance and thrill in working unpaid for a company profiting – making money for other people – from your labour?

You get dressed for work, travel into work, sit at a desk and do work, take a lunch break from work, travel home from work and maybe do some prep for the next day’s work … and you don’t get paid?! That is insane! Promising you exposure might well mean you get your byline on a few features … but saying it might lead to work is toxic. If you produce a tabloid splash that sudden rush of excitement, that boost to your ego won’t even pay your bus fare home.

Or you write articles on return home from your proper job. You get home tired but excited about your “assignment” and write it up imagining you’re in a newsroom. You see your byline on a website. Good, isn’t it? Do you log on and show all your real colleagues the next day and feel proud? Well, to be blunt, there’s no pride in taking work from journalists who don’t have a “proper job” to go to because you’re willing to work for free.

Don’t be fooled. Why would any business owner pay you, and other journalists, for work if you’re willingly to do it for free? Work experience – where you spend a week away from journalism training to work on a paper and see if you like it – is one thing but turning up to work every morning, sitting at a desk, working like a journalist and not being paid for your effort is something different entirely.

It is exploitation. It might not fit with your glamorous idea of “being a journalist” but you are being exploited by people making a profit from your willingness to work unpaid.

It also means that journalism is becoming the domain of people who can afford unpaid internships to get a few bylines. And it means journalists like me won’t get work at all while you’re working for nothing.

And you can call yourself a journalist and feel good about it but you’re not one – not until you get paid. I give people lifts and don’t ask them for money – it doesn’t make me a taxi driver.

You love the journalism industry? Well stop killing it by working for free! The more you give your talent for nothing, the more employers will stop paying journalists and the fewer jobs there will be for us all to go around.

And you can forget accessible journalism for all. Unpaid internships and working for nothing create an industry where only trust fund babies or those with second jobs get a step on the ladder – and journalists who need that work end up on the dole.

There is help for journalism interns who’re desperately trying to start a career – and taking a chance with the promises of the money-grubbing managers – the National Union of Journalists Cashback for Interns campaign. “When the NUJ helped Keri Hudson to successfully sue TPG Web Publishing, the tribunal judgement made clear that many interns who have worked for little or no money could be entitled to claim the minimum wage.”

I left University and started work on a local paper; the pay was rubbish but that job led to much experience many bylines and a step up to national press agencies and so on.

Now the papers are closing and young journalists are being exploited  .. it makes me rage!

Stop working for free!

Ten Things Every Graduate Should Know Before They Start Job-Hunting

Jobcentre Plus new Q&A revealed …

Some intense investigative reporting on my part has resulted in my having something to do other than play string with Chaplin – and in unearthing the latest questionnaire used by Jobcentre Plus advisers.

This Q&A will be used at each and every interview unemployed workers attend in the hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face the repetitive, humiliating process over and over again. What happens to them then is of no concern.

A Jobcentre Plus unofficial, completely imaginary, spokesperson said: “When addressing the needs of customers facing deferred success and cashflow challenges, it sometimes makes sense to clarify your process using a flowchart.

“Using a customer service process flow chart can help advisers deal with customers in a way that represents Jobcentre Plus’ overall customer service outlook while, at the same time, avoiding customer intimacy or, heaven forbid, making eye contact with the employment-challenged.

“Going forward we hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face this repetitive, humiliating process over and over again.

“What happens to them then is of no concern to us and any discussion about the validity of this flowchart will result in our effective, and government-backed, use of blamestorming.”

  • If you’re due to sign on remember this is how they think – even if the more wily ones don’t follow the Q&A openly …

Blame Bingo … a new game for all the family!

Are you unemployed? Do you spend a lot of time watching the news and listening to excuse after excuse from the Coalition? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo©!

Are you a single mum? Immigrant worker? Trade unionist? Or disabled? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo© – and seeing just how you are to blame for the state of the economy.

Blame Bingo© – it’s the game even Labour Party members can enjoy!*

Blame Bingo© is free so won’t eat into your meagre benefits or ever-dwindling wages. It’s easy, fun and contains many real excuses used by the Coalition. Just tick them off as you hear them until you get a full house – which will happen in no time!

Play Blame Bingo© today – and you won’t earn a thing even if you do it all day long! Just as the Coalition likes it!

*Liberal Democrats are advised not to play Blame Bingo© but instead to walk away from the Coalition so that we can have an election.

Blame Bingo© proof that being bored and stuck on the dole makes you entrepreneurial!

Stay calm and stuff the Jubilee …

I went to town to see the Queen*. I could tell you, as the Daily Mail describes, that she looked “stylish in pastels” or I could gush that “Her Majesty and Prince Philip stepped off the royal train at Victoria Station to rapturous applause from more than 800 flag-waving fans

The reality, though, is I walked past Albert Square watching the people holding their camera phones aloft, and I couldn’t be bothered waiting for her to appear. The reality is also that it seemed of little interest to most Mancunians.

I won’t be allowed to miss out on the hysteria though because the Manchester Evening News promises a souvenir supplement on Saturday. The city is told with excitement that Queeny tucked in to “steak and venison pudding [...] served with celeriac mash and buttered savoy cabbage” which was “as all being prepared, cooked and served by town hall staff.”

It sounds like a fine meal and in the glorious surroundings of Manchester Town Hall – built in the mid-1800s to brag about the city’s wealth rather than tackle the slums. I wonder, though, if any of the town hall staff serving up the grub are worrying about potential redundancy or whether they can afford their next meal.

I can see, of course, that Jubilee fever is intending to take our minds off mass unemployment, the destruction of the NHS and the fact that we fund her family’s existence as well as the bonuses for fat cat bosses in banks. It tried much the same in 1977: when firefighters went on strike over pay, there was an International Monetary Fund bail-out, an oil crisis, the Labour government faced a vote of no confidence by Liberals and the Queen wanted us flag-waving for her Silver Jubilee. I didn’t then and I won’t now.

The crowd outside Manchester Town Hall was small as I passed. I like to think that fellow Mancunians see no point in standing in the streets – sunny or not. One website run by journalism students states that HRH was welcomed by “thousands” adding, “hundreds of children, parents and celebrators waved flags”. It also reports on anti-monarchy protesters greeting the Queen.

I can honestly say when I passed it was more like dozens – even the cabbie said he was surprised by how few had turned out, especially considering the sun was shining on this rainy city for a change.

The city’s streets weren’t lined with flag-waving royalists when I walked them. In Albert Square I saw some tourists taking photos; workers having their lunch in the sun; students milling about before they go home to wherever and, of course, photographers up on a statue to ensure a clear view of Her Maj – not a cheering crowd wanting to catch a glimpse of a pastel-wearing parasite.

Because, whether she’s in pretty pastels or polka dots and purple, it’s hard not to resent the expensive tour of an unelected monarch visiting a city facing tough cuts, potentially shedding 50% more jobs than Tory councils and with an average wage of less than £2,000 as the cost of living soars.

It is also particularly upsetting when one considers that the Save the Children revealed in february that 27% of the city’s children live in severe poverty. Its campaign previously called on the Chancellor to Chancellor to announce an emergency plan in the next budget to channel new jobs into the poorest areas and increase financial support for low-income families.

It says that single parents and families are living on less than between £7,000 and  £12,500 a year. Meanwhile the Royals are given hundreds if thousands, according to the British Monarchy website. Even Prince Andrew receives £249,000 per annum.

*I didn’t actually go to see the Queen. I went to the People’s History Museum.

Sharks that look like Chris Grayling …

As incapacity benefit rejects 37% of its claimants,  the jobless total reaches a 17-year high of 2.7million and (un)Employment Minister Chris Grayling tells us “there are new vacancies available every week” … I consider a new way to look at him.

A post inspired by Otters That Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch.


An Open Letter to Chris Grayling …

Firstly, I’m not nor have I ever been a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party* and, while I’ve heard of Mumsnet, I’d not realised in visiting its site I was colluding with hardened radicals.

I am, though, a job snob who wants to be paid for a day’s work. I have the gall to want to earn a living in a way I might enjoy. I’m also under-employed – along with millions more in the UK – due to a global financial crisis that is not of our making.

While you say young people should be grateful for unpaid work to show them the ropes, to give them experience, to get them a foot in the door, I say they should be paid for the work they do, encouraged to achieve and celebrated for what they can offer.

Our ambition is dismissed as snobbery while yours is celebrated on your website, telling us of your rise from school pupil to Employment Minister via the BBC.

At school I was told I’d never be a journalist, constantly reminded that people who grew up where I did had no chance of “bettering themselves”. I doubt you heard this as you worked your way to the BBC. I doubt you thought for a second that you might end up stacking shelves or see your dream job as just that.

“The industry is too competitive”, I heard at school. “You won’t know anyone who can get you a job through friends,” they would warn. “Those in public schools will be picked, leaving you at the back of the line for jobs,” they’d tell me, urging me to find a job, any job and stop day-dreaming.

I thought aspiration was a good thing, even for a working class child living on a council estate. I worked hard. I got O Levels, then A Levels, then further deferred the gratification of nights out with friends by attending university. I worked most nights and every weekend while at university certain I would never have to do so again, not once I was a journalist.

I did do a week of work experience while studying for my degree but not under the assumption that I didn’t understand what work was: I had the chance to see if I really wanted to work in journalism, not the chance to earn the lower rate of JSA while lining the pockets of big business.

After leaving Royal Grammar School and Cambridge, you went to the BBC. After leaving my inner city school and a northern former polytechnic, I got a job on a local newspaper earning £8,000 a year. I lived in a shared house, struggled to fund the car that was essential to the job, went without meals to do so: fed instead by ambition and a determination not to be at the back of the line for future jobs.

I then worked at press agencies, regional newspapers, national newspapers and magazines. I was good at what I did because I came from a working class background, not despite it.

Then – as the journalism industry was brought to its knees my those seeking bigger and bigger profits – I worked in university outreach, encouraging under-represented young people from working class communities to consider university, to know they were capable.

I tell them it is because life has not been easy for them that they’re sharp as tacks, interesting, articulate, funny and wise to old fools telling them they should work unpaid.

You seem to have concluded that young working class people are illiterate, undeserving of paid training and apprenticeships, and unaware that they’re being forced to work unpaid because of a crisis of capitalism. They’re not.

I worked much harder than you I suspect. I did so because I believed this would secure my future. Now you’re a wealthy politician selling the working class into slave labour and I’m working part-time, as a result of the decimated journalism industry and the savage Tory cuts in education.

I think I’ll be unemployed again soon enough, surviving on £67.50 a week, despite working hard for qualifications and competing with the likes of you for a job in the media. It is all too easy for it to be taken away from us – for us to pay the price for a crisis not of our making.

You should resign. You’re out of touch in defending the indefensible. Your contempt for us is tangible as you line up young people to work for free, demanding their gratitude as they make profits for multi-million pound corporations. You dismiss our desire for financial security and mock us for daring to dream of going day after day to a job we might enjoy.

You’ve stolen the aspiration of working class young people and condemned them to an existence of getting by, letting them take the blame for an economic crisis not of their making.

You should go and you should take your nasty Tory sidekicks with you. We’re not fooled by your plans and neither are our young people.

* Now that the SWP is said to be solely responsible for a campaign defending young unemployed people and highlighting the exploitation of the disabled and unemployed I’m more likely to join. I’ll also check Mumsnet daily.

Why Emma Harrison and Workfare must go …

I’m told by a regular reader that being unemployed and in debt in the US means you’re less likely to find work. It seems a bad credit rating could mean your boss decides you’re a bad risk: you need money to clear your debts but those debts stop you from getting work.

I share this not to point out how much worse they may or may not have it in America but to highlight another example of blaming the unemployed for situations beyond their control … and what we might face in the future following the brutal welfare reforms.

A site outlining the history of the US welfare system states, “Throughout the 1800s [...]  there were attempts to reform how the government dealt with the poor. Some changes tried to help the poor move to work rather than continuing to need assistance consisting of caseworkers visiting the poor and training them in morals and a work ethic was advocated by reformers in the 1880s and 1890s.

During the Great Depression, “when one-fourth of the labor force was unemployed” the government stepped in to solve the problem: under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was enacted in 1935. This system is celebrated but it relied upon the Civilian Corporation Corp of unskilled, unmarried men working for $30 a month and giving that money to their parents.

Then in 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act – giving annual lump sums to the states to use to assist the poor and asking those states to ensure the unemployed were encouraged to move from welfare to work.

Now Obama is being accused of bloating the welfare state by bringing in reforms – and is called a socialist more times than Che Guevara – despite plans to make those needing food stamps work for them.

Even in Australia – where the language is more honest – there is Work for the Dole which started in 1998 intended to help young people develop a work ethic but not looking at the causes of youth unemployment.

The suggestion that workers should not be helped when unemployed is nothing new nor is the talk of personal responsibility or the spreading of blame to the jobless: it is a convenient political trick for which we must not fall.

We’re told we have no need to help out strangers with welfare or taxation – but we do. A global economic crisis and a recession that has put 2.7m in this country on the dole is a national – indeed a global – responsibility, not a personal one.

It is the developing narrative of personal responsibility which gives companies – including Superdrug, Asda, Tesco, Argos, Matalan, Royal Mail, Burger King, Poundland, Top Shop, Boots, McDonalds, Primark, HMV, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Pizza Hut, WH Smith – the arrogance to employ people to do a full day’s work for no pay.

It is this rhetoric used by charities such as The Salvation Army, Scope and Oxfam to dismiss the fact that instead of finding those who want to volunteer they they are using slave labour.

Boycott Workfare, a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare, states “Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.”

The system is forcing the unemployed, the vulnerable and the ill to work – providing Jobseekers’ Allowance plus expenses as payment.Rabid Tories would, no doubt, find this acceptable and say people need work experience, people need to have a routine, people need to develop a work ethic, people need to learn not to rely on the state – I say people need to be paid for the work they do.

Marie Curie Cancer Care is among those opting out of the scheme and state, “We participated in this scheme because we believed it could offer volunteers an opportunity to gain valuable experience. However, there is a difference between volunteering and being forced to work and if there is any chance that people with terminal illnesses could be made to take part in this scheme we would take this very seriously.”

Now Emma Harrison, Cameron’s sidekick behind the Work Programme, is under scrutiny herself. It seems the woman who says there are “hidden jobs” and that you just have to find them has a few questions to answer about her own income.

The Daily Mail reports that Emma Harrison “pocketed £8.6 million in one year, mostly from state contracts and [...] MPs said the company’s record in placing the jobless in work was abysmal – with a success rate of only 9 per cent.”

The Guardian points out, “Ministers have been urged to suspend welfare-to-work contracts with a company at the centre of allegations of fraud [...] five shareholders were paid £11m in dividends last year, of which Harrison received 87%.”

This comes as a Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton states, “I deplore the Workfare programme for many reasons but primarily because it is deplorable. Trumpeted as a programme that will give the unemployed key skills, it serves nothing of the sort.

“What it is, in actuality, is a benefit system for sections of our work force. And there was I, foolishly, thinking that when you are part of the capitalist work force then the appropriate term for remuneration received is salary. Apparently not. These days, and under Cameron’s stewardship, we receive ‘benefits’ to become part of the job market.

When Middle England is comparing Cameron to a Nazi even rabid Tories have nowhere to hide. The plans are cruel, selfish, brutal and money-spinners for those running them.

The plans do nothing to help those most in need in our country and fail to recognise that the unemployed are not to blame for a global economic crisis – we should oppose them. Click here to find out how to do just that.