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'Exploitation' of student and trainee hacks under fire as union meets MPs

The National Union of Journalists has met MPs over what they call “exploitation” of student and newly-qualified journalists.

The union wants the politicians to tackle senior ministers about the problem and back their campaign to stop media companies abandoning minimum wage laws.

A meeting of the NUJ’s parliamentary group was held yesterday to discuss the ongoing issue.

The union believes casual shifts should be rewarded by payment, although some formal work experience endorsed by a student’s college may be exempt from the legislation.

But the NUJ said many employers expected newly-qualified journalists to work for poor or even no pay before winning a contract – in breach of the law.

In February the NUJ produced a “name and shame” list of offending employers which they delivered to the tax office.

Union general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Media companies don’t have an opt-out on the minimum wage and should be held to account where they are breaking the law.

“To place expectations on people to do a job without paying them is exploitation, plain and simple.

“Genuine work experience has an important role to play in the training of journalists but it has increasingly been used to obtain cheap or free labour. The Government must put a stop to this cynical avoidance of legal responsibility.”

In February the NUJ submitted evidence on the subject to the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the branch of the Government responsible for enforcing the minimum wage.

The dossier detailed alleged abuses of the regulations by media companies but the union said to date no response has been received from the Government.

On Friday the NUJ will publish a related submission to the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment which is examining areas in which workers are most at risk of exploitation.

An NUJ guideline to work experience is available at