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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 31, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    Aer Lingus lifts its nose, advertises for interns

    Laura Slattery

    With no volcano-related airspace closures to contend with, Aer Lingus has enjoyed a strong second quarter to the year. Passenger numbers are up 8.3 per cent compared to the same period last year, the amount of cash earned per passenger increased 6.6 per cent to €113.13 and revenue has climbed 14 per cent to €351 million.

    These are reassuring numbers for the airline, which has, of yet, failed to invent time travel, though it is currently advertising for more assistants than Doctor Who.

    In common with a number of major employers, Aer Lingus has alighted upon a new way to get work done on the cheap: the JobBridge internship scheme. Its website is currently advertising 19 internships, with titles including IT project assistant; revenue evaluation assistant; and most eye-catchingly of all, air safety assistant.

    Some 14 of the 19 advertised positions are for nine months, the other five for six months. And 12 of them specify a requirement for degree-level qualifications in fields such as accountancy, IT and business.

    To recap the terms of the JobBridge scheme again, the Government, via taxpayers, will throw in €50 per week pocket money on top of dole entitlements, and, er, that’s it. Crucially, the interns are not supposed to be doing work that the company would otherwise have to hire someone to perform at a proper wage – so, on that basis, I guess that air safety assistant position isn’t really necessary at all.

    According to interim accounts published this morning, Aer Lingus’s losses in the first half of 2011 were higher than they were in 2010, with the airline citing the impact of industrial disputes. But this is still a company happy to declare that it is “positive” about its trading prospects for the rest of the year, as well as talk up, for the benefit of shareholders, its success in whittling down operating costs. Staff costs, which represent a fifth of its operating costs, fell 6 per cent in the first half, as the airline cut wages and headcount.

    One can only assume – given how optimistic chief executive Christoph Mueller is about the outlook for the airline – that he will at least consider adding this team of interns to the payroll at the end of the six- or nine month-period of paying them nothing.

    This is not the same company that during the boom would hire cabin crew for nine months, terminate their contracts en masse, and then prevent them from applying for cabin crew positions advertised soon after they were let go. Is it?

    • John Morris says:

      I fairness, if you read the job description, the Air Safety assistant is charged with helping with communications rather than actual Air Safety.

    • Mark Malone says:

      Ive designed a few posters that speak to the divided poles on JobBridge
      You can see them here http://soundmigration.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/jobbridge-the-gaping-chasm-between-spin-and-reality/

    • Catherine O'Rourke says:

      So Ms Slattery, what I can gather from this blog of yours is that for some reason you object to a business giving unemployed graduates a chance at an internship?? Rather bad natured of you…. and completely agree with John Morris’ comment, you should have taken the time to read the job descriptions.

    • Rest assured, Catherine, I have read all of the “job” descriptions. Communications is an integral part of safety, I’d have thought.

    • gobán saor says:

      I’d like to make a few comments as an under-employed and soon to be unemployed again graduate of the class of 2007. That year’s graduates are now reaching their late twenties and have spent the past four years subsisting on various ‘McJobs’ from office-temping, to seasonal work and possibly poorly paid TEFL/English teaching over-seas. Many have by now exhausted the year-long visas to Canada or Australia. Younger graduates with technical degrees will hoover up all available positions this year again.

      Aside from the utterly insidious groupthink that now suggests that either middle-class (mainly) parents or in this case the State should subsidise companies through providing free labour, here are a few points.

      1. There is no contribution by employers to the cost of the scheme.

      2. There is no obligation on participating companies to take on even a minumum number of participants at the end of the term, even on temporary contracts.

      3. There is nothing to prevent companies rolling positions over and over.

      4. “the interns are not supposed to be doing work that the company would otherwise have to hire someone to perform at a proper wage”

      Surely this oxymoron exposes the nullity of the scheme. A job that you do not have to hire someone to do is no job at all. You will not be trained, you will not learn.

    • Sean R says:

      Well put gobán saor, nicely argued.

      Could those who are all doing ‘faux protests’ about the value of giving work experience to young(ish) unemployed people do something simple: give such people a real job, with proper social insurance and good training/ experience. If companies can’t hire someone to do a job, even on a temporary contract, then you shouldn’t insult people by these schemes.If the government had been more creative with this scheme, it could have been a useful way of getting some work experience for people and not calling waiting tables an internship, etc. As it is the lower end of the employment market has be ‘demonetarised’ by this free labour scheme!. Lazy thinking there!

      This is a bogus scheme in the main, and it is shameful that Aer Lingus is taking on people for free… an observer on twitter put it very well the other day re: jobbridge. The twitter comment I saw basically argued that if you’re a company that is not willing to pay your ‘staff’ ethically then you were not getting my business. The way to stop companies exploiting the less-than-yellow-pack workers is to BOYCOTT the companies involved and continue to argue that companies, like Aer Lingus, should at least be able to top up the internship rate into a meaningful work / experience package. Small companies who can’t afford to (really) hire folk without a ‘scheme’ should be given a higher rate of subsidy to make the scheme more attractive but it simply *must* include PRSI contributions and valid working conditions.

    • Yvonne says:

      One of the issues with Jobbridge is that many of the graduates (young and mature) who would go for these do not qualify for social welfare payments. No social welfare means no extra 50 euro. So no pay at all. Additionally those working on this and the previous WPP scheme are informed that they are not employees of the company, not employees of FAS and in effect do not exist. They have no rights but are expected to work a full 5 day week in return for nothing.

      Is this scheme being raised at the Labour conference for the scam that it is? It is ludicrous that the tax payer should subsidise companies to take on (but not hire) anyone. This is supressing the labour market rather than reviving it and everyone is losing out.

    • Thomas Carney says:

      In Germany, where I now work, there is a long tradition of internships. Often the people in these roles have finished master’s degrees. However, they are paid anywhere from 300 to 800 Euro a month before taxes and social contributions, which is possible in Germany due to no universal minimum wage. The lower end of the scale is often for roles in marketing or culture, while people with “hard” skills tend to get higher. Personally, I earned 700 Euro a month, which I topped up with English lessons on the weekend.
      While it would be nice to earn more, don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. Employers often lose money on employees for the first few years until they get enough experience. If this were not the case, employers would be delighted to employ fresh graduates if they thought they would generate a profit after their own wage bill.

      After I demonstrated that I was giving the company more than 700 Euro a month in value through my work, they were happy to increase my wage considerably.

    • Diarmuid says:

      Internship is a system of on-the-job training for white-collar jobs, similar to an apprenticeship. Interns are usually college or university students, but they can also be high school students or post graduate adults seeking skills for a new career. They may also be as young as middle school or in some cases elementary students. Student internships provide opportunities for students to gain experience in their field, determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain school credit. Internships provide employers with cheap or free labor for (typically) low-level tasks. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the companies in which they interned. Their value to the company may be increased by the fact that they need little to no training.


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