There is no such thing as a “Cider and Apple Juice Internship”. There is only unpaid manual labour.

Posted: 08/07/2014 in free archaeology, News & Analysis
Tags: ,

I’ve got better things to do with my time than deal with this ridiculous bullshit (with which Doug Rocks-Macqueen @OpenAccessArch kindly infuriated me), so I’m going to be blunt. As Doug says, it is a new low – and that’s for the National Trust, which invented the Assistant Manager Intern.

There is no such thing as a “Cider and Apple Intern”, National Trust. That is manual labour, outdoors, in winter. Even the farms that exploit migrant seasonal workers pay them – but, of course, this ‘role is purely voluntary and this arrangement is not meant to be a legally binding one or an employment contract’.

Opportunity! Experience! Tradition! And, whisper it, exploitation…

No, “intern”, you will not have the ‘opportunity’ to ‘coordinate and manage a specific event and demonstrate organisational skills to future employers’. You will be exploited to perform essential labour without remuneration. Your non-employer admits as much: ‘We need someone to coordinate all aspects of the event and more importantly, be the central point to discuss volunteering opportunities.’

Yes, ‘you will be part of the tradition!’ But it is an invented tradition of exploiting unpaid labour and telling the unpaid labourer to be grateful for their own exploitation, instead of having the good grace to silently acknowledge that they are powerful and you are vulnerable.

You may enjoy yourself. You can enjoy even dead-end jobs as long as the conditions are not unbearable and you are working alongside likeable people (though, as your non-employer is at pains to point out, this is not even a dead-end job). But ‘an inspiring and fulfilling experience’? It’s fruit-picking – and packing, carrying, selling and delivering! – for fuck’s sake.

Legacy!?

And let’s be clear. I am not the one who is insulting manual labourers or denigrating their work. It is precisely because I value them, because I respect their work, because I believe that they need to be compensated for the irregularity and insecurity of their work, so that they are able to provide their labour in the first place, and because I believe that they should be compensated for enduring poor working conditions in order to provide their labour, that I am demanding that they are paid for their labour. And it is disgusting that it is possible for that demand to exist.

You may be comforted that you are ‘[l]eaving a lasting legacy and assisting with conservation of the orchards for future generations’. Do you think Portuguese or Polish or Romanian or Bulgarian seasonal workers are? Do you think that their role profile emphasises that? No? Why not?

You will have the ‘opportunity to develop skills that will be of value to you through your career development’, if you haven’t developed those skills through a Saturday job at a supermarket or newsagent, and if you’re looking to clinch a second interview for the coveted position of till worker.

Absurdity

As Doug highlights, the National Trust explain that they ‘need someone to work with the Pommelier to assist with the 2014 harvest of apples and subsequent production of apple juice and cider from the crop to enable you to gain the knowledge to organise the October event’ – but, by definition, you will perform most of that labour and “gain” most of that “knowledge” after you’ve directed a team and managed an event for your non-employer. Even Apple Day is a promotional retail show, not a cultural event.

Why?

‘Why the National Trust and why this role?…. Please continue on a separate sheet if necessary.‘ It won’t be necessary. Well, it might be, because this avenue for exploitation may well be blocked with the bodies of three hundred hopeless would-be workers who’ve thrown themselves into it in despair, but how on earth would you fill more than a page, even with a Broadway-worthy performance of pretend aspiration and very real self-abasement?

‘What do you hope to gain from this internship?’ Please don’t say a wage, please don’t say a wage… A pittance? Awww, next!

You’ll be living on site, working twenty-four hours a week on shifts spread across weekdays and weekends, without any income to support a social life. How will you pass the time? Perhaps you could volunteer!

Bullshit, Incompetence and Sloth

Three months after I contacted them about an unpaid internship at a commercial company – only after I contacted an MP – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) claimed: ‘we don’t hesitate to act where we find that employment law has been broken and someone who is entitled to the minimum wage hasn’t been paid it’. However, they also stated that they had ‘no record of having received’ my original e-mail and did nothing about it even after they were forced to acknowledge the problem. So good luck getting them to do anything about this.

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Comments
  1. Robert Seddon says:

    In the absence of a legally binding contract, I suppose the ‘intern’ could opt to terminate the ‘internship’ straight after Apple Day. Those who could afford to take the reputational damage presumably wouldn’t be seeking unpaid ‘heritage’ work in the first place, though.

  2. […] Internships:  learning or exploitation?  Labor laws differ from country to country and here’s one view from the UK. […]

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