BFI reviews policy on unpaid interns

This item appeared in the BECTU journal Stage Screen and Radio recently:

Stage Screen & Radio April/May 2013

 BFI reviews internships

The British Film Institute is to review its practice of hiring unpaid interns after a campaign by Intern Aware which works closely with the union.  Gus Baker of Intern Aware was contacted in February by unemployed graduate Neil Jones.  He aspires to a career in the media and had applied for a BFI internship but had had to withdraw as he could not afford to work for no pay.  He told Intern Aware that 18 people were currently unpaid interns at the publicly funded organisation and he felt this was wrong.

Baker sent a freedom of information request to the BFI about compulsory redundancies which established that after the BFI had cut 72 jobs they appeared to have been replacing some of them with unpaid interns on up to six month contracts.

Questions were asked in the House of Commons and Culture Secretary Maria Miller responded that it was departmental policy that all interns receive the minimum wage.

The BFI board of governors tabled an emergency motion at their board meeting and have now agreed to review the practice of hiring unpaid interns to do work that should be carried out by paid staff.

Intern Aware is supported by BECTU and based out of BECTU head office.

Gus Baker said: “The BFI is a publicly funded body and should therefore uphold the highest standards.  I trust that they will come to their senses and start to treat interns appropriately in accordance with the Arts Council’s official guidance.”


BFI and BECTU in dispute

From BECTU’s journal Stage Screen & Radio December/January 2011 p. 5

British Film Institute in dispute over cuts

BECTU is in dispute with the British Film Institute over its approach to cost-cutting.  The government Spending Review cuts are not the fault of the BFI – but the way the cuts are managed is the responsibility of the BFI senior management.

National Official Pat Styles said: “This dispute arises as a result of the BFI’s inconsistent, opaque and dismissive attitude towards conducting meaningful consultation and constructive dialogue with the joint unions over the cuts programme for 2011-2015, and is a result of the BFI’s continual failure to respond in good time to our requests for information.”

Styles continues: “BFI management have the choice of working with the joint unions to mitigate against the damage caused by the cuts.

“If the unions are not properly engaged in this process, and if the BFI continues to avoid meangingfully consulting with the joint unions, the dispute will escalate.”