The drinks world has become the first global industry to sign up to an ambitious new Sustainable Pay strategy.
The decision comes on the back of a study which showed that 20% of people currently working in drinks were either interns, apprentices or on work experience.
Walter Ripov of the Society for Work, Employment And Trade (SWEAT) said the figures were a real cause for concern.
‘There’s just no way we as an industry can look ourselves in the face when one in five people is basically working for nothing,’ he told Fake Booze.
‘That number is far too low. We need lots more if this industry is to be even halfway viable.’
The Sustainable Pay initiative, he said, would ‘make the industry Sustainable by Paying people even less’.
SWEAT reckons that at least 40% of people employed in drinks need to provide their labour for free or the industry could face ‘wholesale collapse’, with hundreds of businesses going under.
‘The effect would be devastating,’ said Ripov.
‘Though probably less so for the interns since they don’t earn anything anyway.’
Having a larger number of people working but not being paid would, said the organisation, ‘help to balance out the even larger number of people who are paid but do no work.’
Some critics have questioned whether it’s right that the industry should be knowingly increasing the number of people putting in 40 hours a week for nothing.
But Eton-Anne Oxford of wine merchant Barely Bothers and Crudd told Fake Booze it was an arrangement that worked for both sides.
The interns, she said got ‘valuable job experience’, while the trade got to see whether they would fit in their business should a position become available in ten years time.
Having parents who were wealthy enough to support their offspring for several months in some of the most expensive cities on earth was, she said, ‘a good indicator that they’ve got what it takes.’
Hope spring intern-al
In 2020, Jen Teale-Poverty became the first person to work her entire career for no money, having been an intern at wine merchants Widdle and Blister since 1975.
‘I started on a trial for a week, and they said they’d offer me a job once I’d proved myself,’ she told Fake Booze.
‘Apparently I was close a few times, but never quite made it.
‘Still, at least I drank some nice wine.’
Dop and dole
The practice of sweetening the lack of salary with a few free bottles of booze every week has been described by health bodies as ‘immoral and irresponsible.’
Pan Creatitis of the World Hysteria Organisation likened it to the Dop system under apartheid, when workers were paid in brandy.
However Penny Dayrate of the Global Organisation of Beverage Alcohol (GOOBA) said there was no comparison.
‘1980s South Africa,’ she said, ‘was a world of chronic alcohol dependency, no black people in positions of power and huge numbers of objectionable white men.
‘It’s nothing like the modern drinks industry at all.’
Win win scenario
She went on to defend the process of working for drink, saying it was a ‘good way to get rid of unsellable stock’, and that ‘nobody got hurt.
‘Apart from interns, and they don’t count.’
Click here to read about the standoff between journalists and the industry over free samples