Having an internship has always seemed to be the most useful way for a student to spend a summer, even if it is an unpaid internship with poor working conditions. This general belief, however, will be protested by interns in Brussels on Wednesday in what they are calling “ The Sandwich Protest : against unfair internship conditions in Brussels…”
On Wednesday July 17, Brussels interns will protest in front of the European Parliament in Luxembourg Square from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. They wish to raise awareness of their poor working conditions and what they consider unfair remuneration, with certain interns being paid, others underpaid and some not receiving any compensation for their work. The protest, created by BXL Intern, a group aiming to raise awareness about unfair internship conditions in Brussels, is organised through a Facebook page which states “Have you ever felt unpaid, underpaid or undervalued in an internship? When did you last have something else other than a sandwich for lunch?!”
“We are not an association with a legal existence; we are a group of interns who get together over working conditions, who realize there are many wrong things in the internship world. So we are trying to organize an event to raise awareness for people,” Dagmar Glozewoki, co-organizer of The Sandwich Protest.
The protests organisers explain how the economic crisis should not lead to inappropriate conditions in the internship system which, they say, could cause young professionals to lose their passion. They believe that these poor conditions can create “a negative perception of the value of their work.” The interns also wish to raise awareness on behalf of people who are unable to accept an unpaid or low-paid internship, as they do not have the financial means (such as parental support) to sustain themselves. The group claims this creates social inequality as talented people are forced to turn down potentially great, unpaid, offers.
Dagmar stated that no specific demands will be made during the protests, preferring the movement to remain general, with no specific goal but that of raising awareness.
These types of allegedly exploitative, unpaid internships are often justified by companies, saying interns gain experience and sometimes credits for courses at school. Although these benefits might sometimes occur, it is not always the case. Several websites have erupted, such as Intern Black List, where the creators of the site list internships which do not respect Belgium internship laws. A survey has also been created on the internship conditions within the European parliament by the Youth Intergroup.