The STC has joined an initiative by the Youth Intergroup urging President Tajani to introduce binding guidelines for internships in MEP’s offices. At the moment, these positions are not regulated by either Belgian labour law or the regulations applying to the European Parliament’s secretariat, which govern the employment conditions of Schuman Trainees.

As a result of this lack of regulation, a significant number of MEP trainees receive little or no compensation for their work. A survey conducted among 233 MEP trainees indicated that up to 25% percent of them are paid less than €600 per month. This is less than half of Belgium’s minimal subsistence level. Speaking as a trainee in Brussels myself, this is far too little to live off. Moreover, 8% of MEP trainees indicated they received no compensation for their work at all. If there is one trainee for every MEP, this means over 60 trainees are completely unpaid. In reality, this number is likely to be much higher as many MEP’s are known to have two and some as many as five trainees working in their offices.

Additional metrics from the trainee survey:

  • ¼ is paid less than € 600 and 8% is unpaid.
  • Only 22% have a learning agreement or written learning objectives.
  • 40% work more than 40 hours a week and 15% more than 45 hours.
  • Only 72% agree that their tasks fit their qualifications and experience.
  • Low-paid equals low-quality: 12% of low-paid interns rate the internship experience as bad.

A frequently heard argument in defence of this practice, is that the experience gained from a traineeship is a reward in itself; nobody is forced to do this traineeship.

This is a rather simplified reasoning that does not do justice to the real consequences of un(der)paid traineeships. As a result of this practice, those without the financial support from home throughout their unpaid traineeship, cannot benefit from this opportunity. It will exclusively be attainable for those from favourable socio-economic backgrounds. This is not just unfair. It goes against the fundamental principle of equality the EU is built on.

Although many MEP’s have – since the last assessment of the situation in 2010 – improved the conditions for their interns, the problem is persistent in some offices, and continues to exists across party lines. There are MEP’s on both the socialist and conservative side of the isle guilty of not paying their interns. It seems that the only way to eradicate this injustice conclusively, is for the Bureau to adopt a binding decision.

The STC is especially engaged with this issue because it recognises that affected trainees do not have a voice in the issue. Often they are too loyal to revolt against their boss and colleagues, or might even fear it could harm their future professional career. They do not have strength in numbers because they are not organised.

Schuman trainees, trainees in the secretariat of the European Parliament, already benefit from a high quality internship in terms of remuneration, learning goals and working conditions. It is time that same appreciation is extended to all our colleagues working under MEP’s!

Therefore, we are proud to co-sign this initiative by the Youth Intergroup supported by 134 MEP’s covering all political colours. We encourage the Bureau to address this injustice in their house, and to honour the European Union by leading by example.

Supporting documents

Letter to President Tajani
Manifesto for #FairInternships & 134 supporters of the initiative
Results of the study

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