UN interns plan Labour Day march over pay

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UN interns plan Labour Day march over pay
Interns in Geneva brandish banners seeking pay. Photo: Geneva Interns Association (detail)

Interns working for Geneva-based international organizations are planning a march through the city on Labour Day (Friday) to protest against unpaid internships at the United Nations and other employers.


Interns say that young people are being exploited by UN and its agencies such as the International Labour Organization that should be setting an example.

Young people are offered experience at the UN and its organizations for periods of three to six months without pay, under programmes that have only been introduced in recent years.

Other internships offer nominal pay for full-time work.

A group of interns, students and young professionals have established a group called “Pay Your Interns”.

The group “denounces the discriminatory reality of unpaid internships in the UN system and in other organizations”.

In urging people to join the march on Friday, it indicates that failure to pay people for their work is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights backed by the UN.

Article 23 of the charter states: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.”

The march is set to start at 2.30pm at the Place des 22 Cantons in Geneva’s centre, near the Cornavin train station.

 The PIA event has been promoted on the Facebook page of the Geneva Interns Association, where more than 400 people indicated they would take part as of Thursday morning.

Similar concerns have been raised in Brussels about unpaid internships with European Union organizations.

The United Nations maintains that its internships offer the possibility for students who have graduated to improve their knowledge of the UN and to gain an inestimable experience that helps interns in their future careers.

One criticism levelled against such internships is that people of modest means cannot afford to take such positions because of the expenses incurred, particularly in Geneva, which has one of the highest costs of living in Europe.

In Brussels, where interns are also protesting over lack of pay, one “superman” activist recently made a YouTube video to outline the concerns:

Captain Europe on quality internships from Brussels Interns NGO on Vimeo.



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