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A new ECI on interns’ rights about to be launched

We have interviewed Nuno Loureiro, one of the cofounders of B!ngo, an NGO created to promote quality Early Job Experiences (EJE’s) in Brussels.

Can you tell us a little bit about your ECI on unpaid internships and why the EU needs to take a greater interest in this issue?

Our ECI on interns’ legal status seeks to ensure EU-wide clarification on the legal status of interns, a growing, modern and youth-associated working class. Internships have become a mandatory stepping-stone between education and employment in numerous professional fields. Due to the latter, internships ARE an “employment issue” – one that the EU cannot unfortunately directly regulate. It can however make recommendations to Member States on ways towards improvement, and this is what we are aiming to ask the European Commission to do with our ECI (details to come soon!).

How does your ECI fit into the European Council’s adoption of the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships, which calls for more transparency and better conditions for young trainees across the EU?

The Charter is a very general recommendation to Member States. Our ECI will complement the Charter by going into detail by asking the Member States to work on establishing legal rights and obligations for interns. In other terms, we want to ensure that interns are given a status close to that of an “employee”.

Furthermore, B!ngo is working closely with InternsGoPro ASBL on the promotion and implementation of a European quality label for internships, which defines what elements make for quality internships. Together with the ECI on interns’ legal status, the quality label integrates itself in a package of immediate actions that we are taking with partners from all over Europe in order to:

  • Raise awareness towards the quality internships movement,
  • Promote entities that offer quality internships, and help those who wish to move towards a quality internship programme, and
  • Effectively contribute to improving the employment conditions and training opportunities that are offered to young professionals

Do you think mandatory paid internships will decrease the class divide?

Yes! Currently, not everyone can access internships because more often than not they are unpaid! We want to bridge this gap by ensuring that all internships will be paid to a decent minimum, making it more feasible for individuals from all economic backgrounds to participate in them. I stress here that a salary is NOT the most important component in a quality internship – but where there is work, there should be pay.

Why have you chosen the ECI as an instrument for your campaign rather than other forums and advocacy avenues?

We have approached and continue to approach the European Commission, the European Parliament and employers to support our initiative, but we believe the ECI is an important tool due to the visibility it offers and, most importantly, due to the direct involvement with citizens it generates. That’s actually one of the reasons B!ngo has also adopted the InternsGoPro-developed label for quality internships – it is clearly created by interns and citizens themselves.

So many ECIs have failed in collecting the 1 million signatures required, what type of strategies are you going to us?

Our main strategy has been to get the word out on our ECI before its official launch, which will be in November 2014. We want to take our time and make sure that we are ready, have sufficient support, and have already created some buzz on the ECI before the signatures phase begins. We recently co-organized an event at the European Parliament – the first ever European Interns Day – to try and increase our visibility, and we have started to collect supporters’ contact information. Learning from other ECI’s and organizers has been very helpful as well, and we appreciate the oppenness from most ECIs we have already contacted about sharing information about their activities and lessons-learned!

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