Photo Above: Hogmanay Fest © Shared Ferret on Wikipedia
Underbelly are running the famous new years festival for the first time this year.
Bryan Simpson, Organiser Unite Hospitality & Better than Zero said: “To refuse to pay hundreds of workers who will effectively be the face of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations is not just morally unacceptable it may be unlawful under Section 44 of the National Minimum Wage Act which states that only charitable bodies are exempt from paying staff. Underbelly is a profit making company.”
At this stage, we would hope that Edinburgh City Council would intervene to remove the contract from Underbelly, particularly given their unanimous support for our Fair Hospitality Charter which commits them to paying the living wage at all Edinburgh council venues.”
Similar criticism has come from the local community, especially workers within the hospitality industry. Kym Mundy, a manager of a prominent Edinburgh pub said: “I really don’t agree with this. Hospitality would seem to be the only area of growth especially in Edinburgh so should be recognised as the profession it is.
“With people being paid properly you will attract good people who will provide great service ensuring visitors have the best possible experience.
“Hogmanay will require experienced people to deal with such large numbers of possibly drunk people.”
Her colleague Calvin McFarlane, said: “I think it’s ridiculous. Definite exploitation. Some people are paid double time on New Years Eve, why are they paid nothing?”
Despite the controversy, Underbelly have supported their decision by stating: “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.
“Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved at a festival such as Hogmanay and has been shown to have many social and well being benefits and we believe Hogmanay will be enriched by giving people the opportunity to be involved on a voluntary basis.”