22nd Oct 2016

Brussels interns to protest over poor work conditions

  • Youngsters protesting in Berlin against unemployment (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Interns in Brussels are set to stage a protest on Wednesday (17 July) over poor work conditions.

Organised through Facebook, the campaign aims to bring attention to a work force that is often unpaid.

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Others say the placements sometimes fail to offer real training or a perspective for future employment.

The campaign is geared towards all interns, whether they work for the EU institutions, NGOs, private companies or international organisations.

“Our message is designed to incorporate interns working under a variety of conditions, rather than targeting any one particular institution,” an organiser told this website.

Campaigners say that while interns are grateful for the opportunity in Brussels, many work long hours without pay and without a contract.

“We appreciate the efforts taken by all authorities involved in the transmission of skills to young professionals; nevertheless this should not prevent us from drawing public attention to inappropriate conditions in the internship system,” say the organisers in a statement.

The European Commission, for its part, launched the European Alliance for Apprenticeships in early July to improve the quality of traineeships throughout the Union.

The commission says member states with strong vocational and training programmes tend to have lower youth unemployment, listing Austria, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands as examples.

"Given the unacceptable levels of youth unemployment there is an urgent need for those responsible for education and employment to work together to facilitate the transition of young Europeans from school to the world of work,” said EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor.

The 600 interns at the commission, or so-called Blue Book stagiaires, receive about €1,000 per month for a five-month contract.

The commission says the average trainee in 2009 was 26-years old, spoke four languages, and had two diplomas.

The European Parliament, for its part, offers both paid and unpaid internships.

The intern protests comes after a series of strikes by fully-fledged EU officials, who say that proposed cuts to pay and perks will drain EU institutions of talented applicants.

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