Edinburgh’s festivals told not to leave volunteers ‘out of pocket’

Volunteers at Edinburgh's festivals are to be paid "reasonable" expenses. Picture: Getty Images
Volunteers at Edinburgh's festivals are to be paid "reasonable" expenses. Picture: Getty Images
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Edinburgh’s festivals are to be ordered to ensure volunteers recruited to help at events are not left “out of pocket” in future.

The city council wants “reasonable” expenses to be paid to all volunteers in future after crunch talks with festival organisers in the wake of claims that some events were deliberately exploitation unpaid staff.

A new code of conduct will insist that volunteers are not deployed to replace any paid positions to cover for staff involved in an industrial dispute.

All event organisers must spell out plans to use volunteers when they are applying for council contracts in future. They are also being asked to provide training, support and development to all volunteers.

The ten-point plan has been drawn up in the wake of growing concern over the use of volunteers at major events like the Fringe and the city’s Hogmanay festival, which introduced its first scheme last year.

An official report has warned councillors of the need for a “consistent set of guidelines.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh festivals ‘must ensure fair pay for workers’

Council officials have worked with Festivals Edinburgh, the umbrella body for the city’s flagship events, to draw up the volunteering code of conduct.It has been unveiled just weeks after the local authority published a new code of conduct recommending all staff working at the festivals are paid a “living wage” of £7.83 an hour.

Paul Lawrence, the council’s dirctor of place, said: “Volunteering has become a key element of most major festivals and events, recognising the important role that volunteers provide in welcoming and assisting event attendees and event organisers.

“While volunteering is undertaken on a non-contractual basis, it is important that volunteers are treated fairly and benefit from the experience.

Donald Wilson, culture convener at the city council, said: “As the world’s leading festival city, Edinburgh’s offers some of the most sought after volunteering opportunities, which are proven to help individuals develop incredible career and social skills.

We recognise we have a responsibility to promote best practice. We also want to ensure our festivals provide positive experiences for all who take part.

“That’s why we’ve worked with relevant partners and festival bodies to develop this draft set of guidelines, which set out a standard which we would hope and expect organisers and others to adopt.”