Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party hit by ‘exploitation’ row

Revellers enjoy Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Part, Princes Street 'Picture: IAN RUTHERFORD
Revellers enjoy Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Part, Princes Street 'Picture: IAN RUTHERFORD
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Organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay have come under fire over plans to bring in more than 300 volunteers to work at this year’s event.

New organisers hope to recruit a 150-strong army of Hogmanay ambassadors to work for up to 12 hours on Hogmanay.

They are also seeking a similar number to work at the torchlight procession through the city on 30 December.

But the scheme, which involves commiting to several training and rehearsal sessions, have been described as “absolutely outrageous” and “mass exploitation.”

It is being produced for the first time by Underbelly, who insist the “Hogmanay Ambassadors” will not be replacing stewards and security staff.

However they will only get meal vouchers and “reasonable” travel expenses for working at an event worth around £40 million to the city.

The scheme has come under fire from Better Than Zero, an action group set up to tackle exploitation in the hospitality industry, which was involved in the recent Fair Fringe campaign to ensure venue workers are paid the Living Wage.

Better Than Zero organiser Bryan Simpson said: “To ask 120 well-trained staff to work 12 hours in the freezing cold for free is morally unacceptable. 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 it to pay the living wage at its venues.”

Ross Greer, culture spokesman for the Scottish Greens, 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 corporate and public sponsors won’t want to be associated with unfair treatment.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “It’s absolutely incredible we have people exploited and asked to work for nothing on one of the busiest days of the year, when the city will bring in extraordinary amounts of money from visitors.”

A spokeswoman for Underbelly said: “Our volunteer roles are not in any way mandatory to the successful or safe running of the festival, but are to provide opportunities for people who want to get involved in major international events. All events are fully staffed with paid for professional stewards and security staff.”

Council culture leader Donald Wilson said: “We promote fair wages for all, and will only support organisations which pay the living wage. Hogmanay is a living wage event but, like most festivals and major events, it also offers unique opportunities for volunteers to be part of something special.”