An Edinburgh interior design firm has withdrawn advertisements for six unpaid, full time, six-month internships after a highly damaging social media storm.
Last week, The Student reported that Eva Serrano, the founder of Casa Morada, had attempted to recruit several ‘work experience interns’ to work for free at her business. The story went viral and was picked up by The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, The Scottish Daily Record, The Edinburgh Evening News, El Economista, and STV.
It was also the subject of over 500 tweets and over 5,000 Facebook shares.
The Student reported the internships to Intern Aware, the United Kingdom national campaign for fair internships, who subsequently reported them to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for investigation.
Casa Morada has since announced its intention to partner with Intern Aware, who would advise the company on employing interns. Serrano claimed that her interns would henceforth receive “an internship remuneration package superior to that of the company Google.”
Since Tuesday, furious commenters have laid siege to Casa Morada’s online presence. The business’s Facebook page has attracted over 350 one-star ratings and 200 negative comments in the past week. Its average rating was 1.2 stars on Facebook and one star on Google at the time of The Student going to print.
Angry reaction to the internships was compounded by an email Serrano sent to Eugene Macdonald, an Edinburgh-based artist who had asked her why she expected her staff to work for free.
Serrano wrote, “I deliberately place UNPAID intern positions precisely to sort out the mediocre (you) who will never apply, from the formidable. You will never go far with your present mindset. Rest assured of that. 150 CVs now in, from as far as London, and counting.”
In an email to The Student last week, Serrano doubled down on the deliberate nature of her potentially illegal hiring practices, writing, “We don’t believe that working 35 hours per week does in any form disadvantage students from poorer backgrounds because we all have universal access to 168 hours in every week of the year.”
Since then, Serrano has repeatedly posted responses to the Facebook commentariat on her page, decrying press “distortions” and denying that her hiring practices were deeply immoral.
Shortly after withdrawing the internships, she posted, “We have been informed that there will be student manifestations outside Casa Morada to boycott the business.
“It seems that the INMEDIATE [sic] RECTIFICATION ON OUR PART AND FULL WITHDRAWAL OF ALL WORK EXPERIENCE INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES is not enough and some students somehow feel that our business must be turned into a case study in internships code of practice, whilst raising the profile of the case in the media.
“It does not take a genius to figure out that someone who seeks out to exploit would not advertise the exploitation on Gumtree, one of the largest advertising platforms in the UK, on sponsored listings for maximum visibility, and would probably take a more clandestine approach.
“None of the ads were ever reported to the Gumtree team, over 200 CV’s flooded in, and thus we had no reason to suspect we were contravening standard internship recruitment practice.”