The National Union of Journalists has warned media employers to "pay interns or face the consequences" after a member of the union successfully sued a publishing company over her unpaid internship.

The victory is the first for the NUJ's Cashback for Interns campaign, which saw the union offer to represent people who had undertaken an internship of a month or more over the last six years in an effort to sue for unpaid wages.

At a Central London employment tribunal today, Keri Hudson, 21, became the first person to successfully sue through the campaign, proving she had a right to be paid for several weeks' work at the My Village website in 2010.

According to a release from the NUJ, Hudson worked each day from 10am to 6pm and was responsible for a team of writers, for training and delegating tasks, collecting briefs, scheduling articles and hiring new interns. She was told, however, that she was not eligible for any pay because the company considered her an intern.

The tribunal found today that even though she didn't have a written contract, she was a worker in law and was entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage and holiday pay.

The union claimed in March, as it was preparing its first cases in the campaign, that it had been contacted by more than 100 former interns seeking back pay for unpaid work.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said today that the judgement "sends a clear warning to all employers to pay their interns, abide by the law or face the consequences".
 
"It is unacceptable that full time staff are being sacked while unpaid interns are being exploited. This is the first case of its kind – if employers continue to break the law it will not be the last".
 
Legal officer Roy Mincoff added that the ruling "sends a clear message to media companies that if they treat interns like cheap labour, the NUJ will take you through the courts".

No one was available for comment from the My Village network.

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