Edinburgh new year bash “built on exploitation”

Hogmanay crop

MSPs and trade unionists say exploitation of volunteers is "morally unacceptable"

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29th November 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Mass exploitation of volunteers will underpin Edinburgh’s spectacular Hogmanay celebrations, say politicians and campaigners.

They have hit out after event organisers Underbelly advertised for 300 unpaid positions at the world famous end of year bash.

It wants people to work for free as “ambassadors” and dancers.

However, anti-exploitation and low pay group Better Than Zero said a private company asking people to put in a shift for nothing is "morally unacceptable”.

And the group, founded by young trade union activists, has been backed by MSPs.

Bryan Simpson, spokesperson for Better Than Zero, said: “To ask well-trained staff to work 12 hours in the freezing cold for free is morally unacceptable and possibly illegal given the profit made by the event.

"As one of the main sponsors of the event we will be asking questions of Edinburgh City Council, particularly given their unanimous support of our Fair Hospitality Charter, which commits the council to the pay the living wage at its venues."

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay added: "It's absolutely incredible that we have people exploited and asked to work for nothing for a night shift on one of the busiest days of the year, when the capital city will be bringing in extraordinary amounts of money from visitors traveling from all over the world."

And Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Edinburgh's Hogmanay is world-famous but Scotland's reputation will be tarnished if Underbelly go ahead with this mass exploitation programme.

"Hogmanay is a big money-maker for the businesses involved, those who staff the event, and make it a success, deserve fair pay for the shifts they put in.

"I'm sure the corporate and public sponsors won't want to be associated with unfair treatment."

Underbelly said defended its use of volunteers, and said they will not be used to replace paid staff.

A spokeswoman said: "Edinburgh's Hogmanay employs more than 1,700 paid-for staff.

"Our volunteer roles are not in any way mandatory to the successful or safe running of the festival but are there to provide opportunities for people who want to get involved in major international events either for experience, camaraderie or any other reason, and who choose to volunteer.

"All events are fully staffed with paid for professional stewards and security staff, and volunteers do not replace them in any way.

"Our Volunteer Charter formally lays out the commitments we're making to volunteers which includes paid travel, subsistence expenses, training, access to other events at Edinburgh's Hogmanay and a certificate for taking part."