A private company claiming to campaign for social justice has angered young workers by advertising for an unpaid intern. The successful applicant will work until May 2012 for no salary.

The Centre for Social Justice – which “conducts social research to provide evidence and solutions that will help to overcome the causes of poverty and to promote social justice” – is openly recruiting for an 11-month internship, paying travel expenses only.

The organisation has told Graduate Fog that it is “not able to offer a salaried position” but “would not wish to deny those who wish to contribute to the organisation by volunteering from doing so.”

(Translation: “We’re too tight to pay for the junior support staff we need – and this internship allows us to get something for nothing.”)

They also claimed their interns come from “a wide variety of backgrounds” – although Graduate Fog is unclear how anybody but the super-rich can afford to work unpaid for nearly a year.

Last week, Graduate Fog reported that the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative – a registered charity – was advertising for an intern to work for three months, unpaid.

But the Centre for Social Justice is not even a charity – it is a private limited company. However, because it is ‘non-profit’, Graduate Fog understands that it is not legally required to pay its interns. This is in spite of the lengthy job description and specification (including “event organising”, “administration” and “staffing events at the CSJ with MPs, ministers and shadow ministers”). They also state that the successful applicant will have “excellent written and verbal communication skills and a Bachelors degree with a 2:1 or higher”.

When questioned about the ethics of this vacancy, the Centre for Social Justice told Graduate Fog:

From: The Centre for Social Justice
To: Graduate Fog
Date: Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 17:43

Dear Tanya

Thank you for writing in with your concerns related to the voluntary opportunities that are available at the Centre for Social Justice. The Centre is a private limited not-for-profit company established to advance the education of the public in the subject of social justice and to promote the voluntary sector.

Since we were established in 2004 we have wanted to create opportunities for volunteers to be a part of our work. This is both because of the vitality that volunteers are able to bring to the organisation but also because many people dedicated to the cause of social justice and achieving change within our most disadvantaged communities have asked to volunteer with us, so that we have wanted to give space and opportunity for them to do so.

Our voluntary internships are entirely voluntary. Whilst volunteers expect to be able to volunteer for a period they are able to leave at any point. Volunteers have come from a range backgrounds and not all our voluntary interns are young, recent graduates.

We review our internship programme annually to ensure that volunteers are able to make the contribution they wish to; that they have a positive experience of volunteering; and feedback from interns on improving the volunteering experience is taken on board. In doing so we assess whether creating a fixed-term contract for an employee would provide a better mechanism for an internship programme. Then, whether we are in a financial position to do so. Whilst we are not in a position to offer a paid fix-term employment contract as a mechanism for providing an internship programme this year, were we to be we would not wish to deny those who wish to contribute to the organisation by volunteering from doing so.

If you do have any further questions, please do not hesitate to be in touch.

Graduate Fog is having a head-in-hands moment. How can it be right that a legal loophole originally designed to protect genuine, selfless, do-gooding volunteering is now being used to secure free admin support staff for anybody who claims they don’t make a profit? How can it be right that anybody who can’t afford to work unpaid for almost a year is excluded from the right to compete for this position? And how is it fair that everybody else at these organisations is paid for their labour – just not the interns?

*Is this internship socially just?
Should the Centre for Social Justice be allowed to have an unpaid intern working for them for 11 months, unpaid? Even if it’s legal, is it right?

See the ad for yourself here

Link dead? Here are the screenshots:

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