NUJ helps win Living Wage for London science interns

Cross-posted from Lewisham NUJ

The UK’s premier science outreach body, the British Science Association, has following an appeal from a National Union of Journalists branch chairman agreed to raise the remuneration offered to interns from the National Minimum Wage (£6.08 per hour) to that of the London Living Wage (£8.30). This is a rise of more than 36%.

Advertised on the association’s website, and in an online forum for science communication workers, the three-month Science in Society internship was originally offered at the statutory Minimum Wage, provoking a lively debate about needs, practicalities, employment ethics and the potential for age discrimination. In the case of young low-paid and unpaid interns, there is also an increasing and socially divisive tendency for well-off parents to subsidise offspring during their early years in the job market.

Some of the contributors to the discussion argued that one shouldn’t complain, and that the Minimum Wage offer is preferable to an unpaid internship. While this is certainly true, it is beside the point. Science journalist and Lewisham NUJ chair Francis Sedgemore suggested that a moral way around the problem is to offer junior employees liveable pay rates funded by reduced numbers in senior roles together with savings in management overheads and other operational expenses.

People are the most important element in corporations; management structures are secondary. Upping the wage offer for the new Science in Society internship and all future openings would, said Francis, set a moral example, and reflect well on the British Science Association.

The NUJ intervention together with that of other concerned science communicators prompted the British Science Association to review its pay policy, and raise the wage level for the Science in Society internship and all similar positions to that of the London Living Wage.

Hats off to the British Science Association!