A personal opinion: Jobbridge

At the time of writing, a search of the JobBridge website for the word “journalist” brings up eight hits, ranging from national and provincial newspapers to a local radio station and several openings for the position of “online journalist”.

The “online journalist” positions all look remarkably similar, and appear mainly to be for positions maintaining the online presence in a chain of local newspapers. One such position seems to be with an online only “trade” website. A similar search a week ago produced 13 hits.

In case you missed it, JobBridge is a government wheeze to pay participants €50 on top of their unemployment allowance for an internship of up to nine months with an employer.

Put bluntly, jobbridge looks to me like a sub to employers, and encourages conditions young people to accept work at low pay.

A jobbridge internship is a position filled for an employer at public expense, for which they don’t have to pay real wages, or hire a freelance to do the same work. (Website design/social media strategy would often be a freelance project, for example).

Jobbridge interns are not regarded as in employment for any purpose except tax acts and health and safety.

The true intent of the scheme can be seen in the fact those on disability allowance/lone parents allowance cannot participate. This is not about training and mentoring, it’s about massaging unemployment figures, changing workplace expectations, and giving a sub to business.

My understanding is the NUJ position on Jobridge is to take each “internship” on its merits, and to ensure that local chapels monitor the scheme to make sure real training and mentoring take place.

That’s fine in theory, but in practice, I am aware of several positions which have been advertised in newsrooms where there is no recognised chapel. Meanwhile the blogosphere is rife with criticisms from participants of the lack of formal oversight and quality control of the scheme by FAS and the department of Social Protection.

It has also been suggested to me that several media companies find themselves in dire financial straits, and so should not be opposed if they avail of the jobbridge scheme. This looks to me like false reasoning. If a company is in such trouble that it fears going bust, one or two “internships” are hardly going to make a difference.

Jobbridge destroys real jobs, in the name of “labour market activation”, a misnomer if ever there was one. I would submit that it ought to be opposed by the NUJ, and by every other trade union.