AAI condemns young graduates being “exploited”

logo_aaiThe Architectural Association of Ireland has issued a strongly worded letter to the RIAI over the “current level of recognition and reward” given to young graduates. This has followed on, from recent very public discussions in the UK about young staff being taken advantage of, as free labour.

“The AAI, which since 1896 has existed as a forum for those interested in the culture of architecture, sees some of our members who work within the profession exploited through low or no pay. This unacceptable behaviour carried out by employers appears concurrent with a trend in architects’ own acceptance of unsustainably low professional fees and the proliferation of ‘free-consultations’. Through this exploitation and the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of fees the profession is complicit in nurturing a society where architecture is undervalued.”

They go onto say that “while it is not in society’s interests that the practice of architecture in Ireland becomes exclusive to those from particular social strata, it would seem that due to the current tendency towards unpaid internships, only those with sufficient financial support have the opportunity to gain the experience required to progress. Those from lower-income backgrounds with understandable pressure to earn a wage following what is an already lengthy education, are excluded outright. Furthermore, young emerging practices cannot compete with those practices backed by years of very healthy yields, who are now offering a degree of free work or work ‘at a loss’.”

Anecdotal evidence would support this view, that the larger firms are pitching for work at a lower pricepoint than is feasible for the smaller design houses. Whether or not free labour is responsible for this, remains to be seem. Even the larger firms cannot continue in that way for long, with huge amounts of layoffs in the last two years and several high-profile firms closing their doors.

The AAI will be asking their members to sign a declaration on fair pay on their next submission to the annual AAI Awards. And they have requested that the RIAI give consideration to:

  • Following immediate consultation with all stakeholders, to establish rules on minimum pay and hold to account those practitioners who ignore these rules
  • To make mandatory a signed declaration, for all competition and award submissions, that all employees used in the production of those submissions have been paid according to these rules
  • To actively publicise Architectural Graduate Member status to all students and reduce the prohibitive cost of graduate membership
  • Compile a complete register of all architectural graduates with the view to formalising all paid experience prior to professional examinations.