The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is being marred by the exploitation of workers who are saddled with “precarious” pay and conditions which are putting their physical and mental health at risk, campaigners have claimed.
A damning new dossier exposing widespread cases of “shameful” sharp practice by venues and promoters has been published just days after the start of the festival.
It claims some major venues are paying staff as little as £200 for the entire Fringe run - the equivalent of just 50 pence per hour - by claiming the roles are voluntary.
The nine-page report from the Fair Fringe campaign claims employers are creating a climate where “excessive work becomes normalised.”
It also accuses venues of operating “sinister” accommodation deals with venue workers which sees them “trapped in their roles under the threat of homelessness” if they were to seek better pay and conditions.
Launched last summer, the Fair Fringe campaign has won the backing of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and city council leader Adam McVey.
The local authority recently published a code of conduct insisting all workers at Edinburgh’s festivals must be paid the “living wage” of at least £7.83 an hour.
A ban on unpaid trial shifts and the use of “tips” to either replace or top up wages is also set out in guidelines intended to set a “minimum standard” for the treatment of staff.
The city council says they are aimed at protecting the reputation of Edinburgh as “the world’s leading festival city”.
The Fair Fringe report states: “Workers made the Edinburgh Festival, but it doesn’t always work for them. Festival staff are underpaid, poorly treated and work in precarious conditions.
“Unfair and unsafe working conditions leave staff out of pocket and out of energy - leading to their physical and mental decline. Often this exploitation isn’t event hidden.
“This report is a snapshot of some of the shameful practices that are so common they are now accepted as the status quo. We must not allow the prestige the Fringe has to blind us to the abuses that employers are regularly committing.
“Workers are always at the backbone of the Fringe, across all areas, times and sectors. Sadly though, the quality of the condition of that work is being ruined so that a small group can profit from the Fringe.”
Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Fringe Society, said: “We are committed to ensuring that everyone who works on the Fringe, in whatever capacity, has the best experience possible.
“Following our independent venue workers’ survey conducted in 2017, in which 90 per cent of respondents said they would choose to work at the Fringe again, we have been liaising with the city council, participants and venues to positively and pro-actively address any issues and promote a fair, positive and safe working environment for all.”