OK, so this is not about writing, but I am not just a writer, I am a person who has many lives which all run side-by-side. This is a pet-hate rant. If you’re not up for it – respect and stop reading now.
Yesterday I saw an ‘ad’ on Twitter from the British Library Asian and African Department for a volunteer ‘intern’ to help them sort through catalogues of prints etc. It was a ‘job’ for the summer. Something inside me ‘clicked’ with rage. Yet another volunteer ‘job’ for a young person at a London address, unpaid, offered on the basis that you will gain experience in cataloguing at a prestige organisation like the British Library.
First up, forget the no pay, what about the travel to this venue? The cost of it, the lunch money, the free labour the British Library is getting on the back of some desperate young person and their families who will no doubt push that young person into applying.
What about the elitism of it all? Who, other than a young person from a very well-off family, supporting them in every which way with accommodation, travel money, living money etc etc, would be able to apply for such a post? What about the moral issue of unpaid ‘internships’?
This was my reply to the British Library tweet, to which I receive no reply (surprise, surprise). You can see it on Twitter. Go to @JoChumas and look at my Tweets and Replies.
Replying to @BLAsia_Africa
Please pay them, that’s all I ask otherwise it’s just an exercise in
#Elite -ist selection!
Young people are my particular passion. I have one young son living at home with me. He’s 20 and he’s always being encouraged to volunteer to ‘get experience’. Recently in Scotland he was encouraged to go to an organisation (I don’t want to mention their name) which helps young people get jobs.
My son has volunteered for many years while studying but he was told after an hour-long interview with this job-help organisation in Edinburgh that he needed to do more volunteering and that this company would help him find more volunteering work.
This is an organisation that receives many, many grants – European and Scottish. They class themselves as a ‘charity’. They have charitable status in terms of their tax identity, which offers them perks and more money and all sorts of benefits for themselves.
I am guessing – and I know I am right – that for every young person they ‘place’ in any sort of organisation – volunteer or otherwise – they receive a big monetary tick from their funding bodies. They will have to ‘help’ x amount of young people to carry on receiving funding, and they will categorise helping a young person into a volunteer position, as worthy of putting on that list of numbers to get their funding. It’s their idea of a quick, no effort fix to get their numbers up.
My son, with my help, has approached many into work companies in Edinburgh and the message is always the same; they have a list of large organisations that will offer him volunteer work as a way of getting experience and a possible job at the end of it, if he proves himself.
I say. ENOUGH! Number one. I am supporting my son financially, even though I have next to no money. He lives with me. He wants to work. He wants to be paid for his work. He wants to be independent.
These big companies – who are effectively benefit scroungers in themselves – because they are all bank-rolled by European Union money and Scottish Government money plus Westminster money in terms of tax credits that are offered to people who do get practically slave wages or low pay, in the form of top up money to help them survive – are the cheats and the liars.
The British Library should pay a young person to catalogue. The British Library is very, very rich from donations and support. It can afford to pay young people. Volunteer jobs are not the way forward.
I say: ALL YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO BE GUARANTEED PAID WORK WHEN THEY TURN EIGHTEEN, IF NOT BEFORE. AND IT SHOULD BE THE DUTY OF ALL COMPANIES TO OFFER THEM PAID WORK. THEY NEED TO HAVE A BUDGET TO PAY YOUNG PEOPLE. FULL STOP.
This is a long, long conversation and for the sake of sanity, I will stop my rant there.
Young people have a crappy life now. I used to be a young person. I remember the crappiness of low pay, of nowhere to call home, of a life of fear in Thatcher’s Britain (I am 54-years-old) and saw no future for myself in London during the eighties. I got a job – eventually – but couldn’t afford to rent anywhere in London, so I squatted a council flat with a friend, as a protest against the empty flats in London. I was political. I was angry. I am still political and I am still angry. Eventually I had no choice but to leave the country and find work and a life elsewhere.
Young people deserve so much better and their parents – who have to support them on fresh air – deserve better too.
This blog doesn’t even mention the zero-hours gig economy bullshit that young people are forced to do. Companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats are billion dollar companies and young people are the slaves who are making these hideous companies mega-rich.
Please call out volunteering where-ever you see it, and campaign against the abuse of unpaid ‘internships’ which should not go on for longer than a couple of weeks, max. ENOUGH.
Image: taken from Google Images – maybe subject to copyright – haven’t a clue if it is. If it is, I will remove it and take my own photo of a stack of newspapers!