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NUJ urges code of practice on student placements

23 July 2015

The Irish Secretary of the NUJ has called for a code of practice governing student placements and the engagement of interns.

Séamus Dooley, speaking at the launch of a new Freelance Directory by the Irish South West branch of the union, attended  by Jan O Sullivan, education and skills minister, said the abuse of placement schemes undermined the employment of freelance reporters and photographers in the media industry. He added that the use of Jobsbridge schemes also had an adverse impact on freelance workers. 

He congratulated the branch on the directory initiative and said in his speech:

"I would draw particular attention to the use, or rather abuse, of free labour through interns, college placements and State sponsored schemes such as Jobsbridge.
"There is a need for a code of conduct governing college placements. The use of students and new graduates to fill gaps has had a major impact on Irish journalism and I would ask the minister to consider a departmental review of all third level placements and work experience schemes.
"We are not opposed to genuine, well structured and resourced placement schemes, but we don’t want to see students exploited. Neither do we want to see long-serving freelance reporters and photographers displaced by unpaid or cheap labour supplied by public institutions funded by the state.
"Jobsbridge has been used to fill  new media posts. Under the rules of the schemes, Jobsbridge cannot be used to displace staff but no consideration appears to have been given to the use of Jobsbridge to deprive freelance workers of pay or the opportunity of work. 
"Since the abolition of the FAS Print Industry Training Committee no statutory agency has a role in monitoring training within the media – with the partial exception of the BAI.
"If the media is important then access to training and upskilling is vital to ensure sustainable employment.
"As part of the proposed Commission on the Future of the Media in Ireland we would like to see a review of all education and training within the sector, as well as employment practices.
"Access to employment, the implications of cross-ownership, the possibility of measures to promote ethnic diversity – all of these issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive fashion."

Tags: , students, interns, work placements, ireland, Commission on the Future of the Media in Ireland, freelance, photographers