Edinburgh's Hogmanay Events Have Been Criticised For Advertising Hundreds Of Unpaid Roles

    MSPs have told BuzzFeed News that the use of unpaid volunteers will tarnish the world-famous New Year celebrations.

    Andrew Milligan / PA Archive/PA Images

    Fireworks light up the sky during the Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Edinburgh.

    The organisers of Edinburgh's Hogmanay events have been criticised by politicians and living wage campaigners for advertising nearly 300 unpaid roles.

    On the volunteer section of the website for Edinburgh's Hogmanay – which is being organised by the Underbelly entertainment company – it says the New Year celebrations are "all about taking part and getting involved" and invites applications for hundreds of volunteers to work at different events.

    Tickets for the street party event cost £26, with a capacity of 60,000 people. Edinburgh City Council has estimated that the Hogmanay events bring roughly £40 million into the city each year.

    According to the volunteer postings on the website, in return for work at the annual street party in Scotland's capital, volunteers will only be reimbursed for travel expenses and meals and, after they complete their shifts, they will receive a "thank you message" and a certificate.

    Around 120 volunteers are expected to be available for training and ahead of the street party from 2pm on New Year's Eve, and some of the volunteer shifts continue until after the end of the event at 2am.

    Bryan Simpson, from the living-wage campaign group Better Than Zero and the Unite trade union, told BuzzFeed News: "To ask 120 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."

    Jane Barlow / PA Archive/PA Images

    Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay told BuzzFeed News: "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."

    Ross Greer MSP, culture spokesperson 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."

    A spokesperson for Underbelly said that Edinburgh's Hogmanay events employ more than 1,700 paid staff, and that the volunteer roles will provide an opportunity for people "who want to get involved in a major international event either for experience, camaraderie or any other reason".

    "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," said the spokesperson.

    "Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved at a festival such as Hogmanay and has been shown to have many social and wellbeing benefits and we believe Hogmanay will be enriched by giving people the opportunity to be involved on a voluntary basis.

    "Underbelly takes our role as an employer seriously and is, and always has been, committed to full paid employment across all our events, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. This ambassador scheme has been created to open up Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay festival to more people but does not in any way replace any paid employment."

    Edinburgh City Council has been contacted for comment.

    Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

    Contact Jamie Ross at jamie.ross@buzzfeed.com.

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