Fringe venues face new demands to improvement treatment of staff

Pressure is mounting on Fringe operators accused of exploiting workers after a new landmark conduct of conduct for employers was agree between organisers of the festival and union leaders.

Roland Saunders takes a break from his Fringe show Fake TV to impersonate Donald Trump outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Greg Macvean

It is aimed at ensuring the “highest possible standards” are in place across the board.

The Fringe Society has reached agreement with BECTU, the UK’s main entertainment industry union, on a “good employment practice” guide following months of behind-the-scenes talks.

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Venues and companies staging shows are being urged to follow the new guidance, which has been published after the city council unveiled its own code of conduct for the treatment of festival workers.

The Fair Fringe campaign claims exploitation of workers is so commonplace it is accepted as the status quo.

It urges all employers pay staff at least the “living wage” of £7.83 an hour, protect them from harassment and discrimination, ensure all tips are paid to staff and do not use unpaid trial shifts to fill rotas.

The new blueprint produced by the Fringe Society and BECTU sets out a series of demands to make hours of work and pay rate clear in contracts.

There are also measures to ensure Fringe staff do not have any pay docked to meet the cost of accommodation in the city, are allocated proper rest breaks and are given full health and safety training.

The new guide states: “BECTU and the Fringe Society are committed to encouraging employers to follow best practice for the engagement and employment of all workers engaged by venues and productions. Adopting the highest possible employment standards is both morally and economically beneficial for everyone involved in the Fringe and for the city of Edinburgh as a whole.”

A spokesman for the Fringe Society said: “We conducted an independent survey of Fringe venue workers last year to develop a more detailed picture of the working lives of the many individuals that make the festival happen each year.

“While we were encouraged that 90 per cent of respondents said that they would choose to work at the Fringe again, and 83 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience, there is still work to be done to ensure that everyone’s Fringe experience is as positive as it can be.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Edinburgh is the world’s ‘Festival City’ and employers have a responsibility to 
promote and follow best practice.

“We’ll continue to call upon those engaging our festival workers in Edinburgh to help ensure everyone has a fair, fun, festival experience.”