join a union

Can interns join a trade union?

Interns have rights at work, just like everyone else.  You have a legal right to join a trade union and enjoy the benefits that trade union membership brings.  And unions are happy to recruit and support you.

Your employer must give you the chance to join an appropriate union.

What do trade unions do?

Trade unions are organised groups of workers who come together to support each other in the workplace.

In a union, individuals can get together to negotiate with employers to improve pay, terms and conditions, ensure fair and equal treatment and, in some cases, get advice from an expert.

For more about the benefits that unions can bring, check out The Union Advantage.

What can unions do for interns?

How can unions help you?  Here’s a couple of examples:

BECTU – fighting exploitation in the audio-visual industries

BECTU is the union that represents people working in film, TV and other audio-visual industries.  This industry is rife with unpaid work.  BECTU believe that 1 in 6 of their members is working for no pay, and they have been campaigning against the exploitation of unpaid work.

In November 2009, film worker Nicola Vetta, with BECTU’s support, won a very significant Employment Tribunal case against London Dreams Motions Pictures Ltd over non-payment.

Unite – supporting interns in parliament

Interns working in Parliament have organised themselves within the trade union Unite, forming the Unite Interns Network. While this is a specific initiative run by and for interns working or wanting to work in Parliament, the work they are doing has benefits for all interns.

The Unite Interns Contract sets out a clear set of guidelines of the employment of interns by MPs.  This contract can provide the basis for intern contracts across a range of industries and professions. For more information on the Unite Interns Network, you can find them on Facebook.

National Union of Journalists – Work Experience Campaign

The NUJ is campaigning to protect newly-qualified journalists from exploitation as they begin their careers in the media. They’ve produced helpful guidelines on work experience and conducted surveys of former student members as part of their campaign.

Which union should you join?

There may well be a union in your workplace.  If so, talk to the union rep and get advice on how to join up. It’s always best to join the union that’s already established where you work. They may have an official recognition deal with your employer, which gives them more rights to represent you, or even if they don’t, there’s a lot to be said for being in a larger grouping of members.

If there isn’t already a union present, you can get more information on joining a union by using our online union finder.

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