Tony Blair criticised by graduates for refusing to pay interns… despite being the PM who brought in the minimum wage
Multi-millionaire Tony Blair was condemned yesterday for refusing to pay his interns — despite being the PM who introduced the minimum wage.
The former Prime Minister made around £20million last year and earns a staggering £200,000 for a speech.
But when it comes to employing junior staff on short-term contracts the controversial politician only pays them lunch and travel expenses.
One graduate, who does not want to be named, applied for an internship towards the end of last year.
He was delighted to be accepted but the role fell through when he asked to work four-days a week so he could earn money from a part-time job to pay his bills.
The office of Blair refused the request and instead offered the position to someone else.
He now works in Singapore but hit out at a seemingly hypocritical recruitment policy of the ex-PM whose Government introduced the National Minimum Wage Act in 1998.
“I was distraught when the offer was later retracted, after I realised that I would have to give up my part-time job in order to work full-time without a salary,” the man told careers website GraduateFog.co.uk.
“London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and I realised my rent and travel costs alone would amount to over £550 a month.
“There was no way that the lunch and travel expenses offered would cover that.
“Even though the internship sounded like a huge opportunity, I just couldn’t afford to give up my only source of income.
“It would have been amazing for my CV and my future prospects.
“It’s very disappointing that a prime minister who dedicated himself to equal opportunity for all has effectively made this internship available only to those who don’t need to be paid to work.”
The introduction of a minimum wage received widespread praise and, in 2010, it was named the most successful government policy of the past 30 years in a survey of British political experts.
But unpaid internships are regularly criticised – particularly in London – because of claims they exploit those who do them and exclude those who can’t afford to do them
The embarrassing situation was broken by the ‘Graduate Fog’ website, which gives careers advice to job-seeking graduates.
Tanya de Grunwald, founder of GraduateFog.co.uk, criticised Blair for following in the footsteps of multi-millionaires like Simon Cowell and Sir Philip Green by not paying interns.
She said: “Interns around the country will be choking on the irony: the man who introduced the minimum wage doesn’t pay his own young staff, who manage his diary and open his post.
“Legalities aside, this is just plain wrong. If someone is doing proper, useful work in his office, Blair has a duty to pay them.
“Yes, the experience will look great on their CV – but it won’t pay their rent or buy bread.
“It is also unfair that anybody who can’t afford to work for three months unpaid can’t take up this opportunity.
“Unpaid work is not the solution to youth unemployment – it is already a big part of the problem.”
Since Blair, 59, left his role as Prime Minister in 2007, he has been in huge demand as an adviser around the world.
He has pocketed a small fortune and built up an impressive property portfolio with experts estimating he earned £20 million last year.
The politician also earns around £200,000 a speech and is employed in various roles with US investment bank JP Morgan paying him £2.5 million a year for his advice.
Tony Blair’s office defended its internships and said they “value” their interns “very highly”.
A statement from the office said: “Each internship lasts for around 3 months and is designed to give young people valuable experience in a high profile and fast moving work environment.
“We support all our interns by paying travel and lunch expenses.”