Calls for JobBridge to be scrapped following reports of "abuse" of system

Newspaper reports suggest that the HSE has taken on 399 interns since 2011

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File photo of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton at JobBridge event. Image: RollingNews.ie

There have been calls for the dissolution of JobBridge, following reports of 'abuse and exploitation' of the internship programme.

The JobBridge scheme was introduced in 2011, and offers interns 6 month or 9 month placements while allowing them to retain their social welfare entitlements. They are also paid an additional €52.50 a week.

The Sunday Business Post reports that some organisations and companies have used the programme dozens of times.

The papers says the HSE has used JobBridge 399 times since the programme was established five years ago, while the GAA has taken on 249 interns under the controversial scheme.

Other frequent users of the system include Teagasc (184 interns), UCD (also 184), Hewlett-Packard (176) and a number of county councils.

The paper stresses "that there is no implication of wrongdoing on behalf of any of these companies". However, it says that experts are calling for the scrapping of the programme based on the figures.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Employment Dara Calleary said JobBridge has been an "abusive, unfair scheme" for many young people.

“It is widely recognised that there is a role for unpaid internships which provide education and training for students as well as experience in the workplace. However, even in these cases we believe that there should be a four week limit on unpaid internships in order to discourage and guard against the potential exploitation of unpaid workers by employers," he suggested. 

In a statement, trade union IMPACT's deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said, “many of those who welcomed the scheme in 2011 have been troubled by the recurring reports of abuse and exploitation, which have dogged its reputation and greatly undermined its many positive outcomes.

"While the scheme undoubtedly served a useful purpose when youth unemployment and emigration was rocketing at the height of the economic crash, it’s now time to move on,” he added.

Mr Callinan suggests that a more targeted approach to internships is required to help halt a culture where internships "are used to displace paid employment and drive down pay and working conditions".

IMPACT's Joe O'Connor says it is not just JobBridge which should be examined, arguing that there are other internships in the labour market that are "completely unregulated":

The Labour Party had committed to phasing out the JobBridge scheme if they were re-elected to government - but they have since ruled out participating in the next coalition.