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MP criticised over using intern


An MP who campaigned for the introduction of a national living wage has been accused of “hypocrisy” after replacing a salaried staff member with an unpaid intern.

Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham has posted an advert for a “voluntary Westminster worker” whose duties include policy work and dealing with constituents on her official website.
But a source told the BBC that a volunteer has already been recruited as a direct replacement for an existing salaried staff member who is leaving to take another job elsewhere. The individual concerned is reportedly already shadowing the departing employee in order to take over all of their existing duties.
The job advert, which was posted on 15 June, said that Brown was looking for an “intelligent and enthusiastic volunteer” to work in a busy Westminster office”. Tasks included “answering the phone, dealing with constituent enquiries and provision of clerical support” as well as undertaking policy research and the drafting of letters and press releases.
As a result, candidates must have “excellent written and IT skills”, the advert indicated. While it stated that hours were “flexible”, there was no time limit placed on the duration of post and no expenses offered to cover either food or travel costs.
Ironically, however, Brown’s website also says that “Since her election in 2005, Lyn has campaigned tirelessly for a living wage for all.” The living wage is higher than the minimum wage and based on an hourly salary rate, something that campaigners say is necessary to allow a family to meet its basic needs. In London, which includes Brown’s constituency, the living wage is currently set at £8.30.
But Gus Baker, co-director of campaign group Intern Aware, accused her of being a hypocrite over the move.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable for MPs to replace full time, salaried workers with unpaid staff. That’s the top and bottom line. But that Lyn Brown campaigns for the living wage – and has campaigned for the minimum wage in the past – makes this a double hypocrisy,” he said.
As a result, Baker was keen to ask her how someone from her constituency from a low income background would be able to take up the opportunity. “The answer is they couldn’t so how can she possibly justify that? It’s manifestly unfair,” he added.
But Brown claimed that she was not replacing a salaried staff member with an intern. In a statement, she said: “I would like to pay everyone who volunteers for me and who is ultimately seeking a wage. The reality is that I do not have the resources to do so. Those who come to me without a wage and seeking paid employment receive expenses and experience and invariably go on to either work in my office or find paid work elsewhere within a six month period.”
The Labour Party said that staffing decisions were a matter for individual MPs. During the Labour leadership contest, winner Ed Miliband signed Intern Aware’s pledge promising that if elected, he would campaign for the Minimum Wage Act to be enforced fully to cover interns.

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