Council accused of abandoning promise over post to help strippers find alternative jobs

A council has been accused of abandoning a pledge to set up a new post to help exotic dancers find alternative employment after a controversial strip club ban was agreed in the capital.

Labour councillors said they were looking into funding a dedicated role to help women find alternative jobs following the vote to limit the number of establishments in the capital to zero – effectively forcing its four strip clubs to shut from April next year,

United Sex Workers (USW) union fears that around one hundred workers including strippers, bar and security staff will lose their jobs with no alternative venues for them to find work in.

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Strippers told the council they want to remain in work and warned that banning the clubs could push stripping underground putting them in danger.

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Councillor Mandy Watt previously said the council’s aim was to fund a new role dedicated to helping workers impacted find ‘something more interesting and useful instead’.

Labour councillor Joan Griffiths, who proposed the ban, also said the council would "work with women to help them look at their careers and at other employment options”.

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But the SNP’s Finlay McFarlane said no support has been put in place and called on Labour to ‘keep their promise’.

It comes as USW prepares to take Edinburgh council to court over the nil cap after they raised more than £20,000 for legal fees.

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Mr McFarlane asked the fair work committee what work is currently being undertaken to support women in finding alternative employment.

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He was told the council’s employability services operate an ‘open door approach’ and will support anyone in need. When the ban comes into force in April 2023 the council said officers will discuss how best to offer support ‘at the appropriate time’ to workers affected by the ban.

Councillor McFarlane said: “I asked a question at council about the commitment Labour explicitly made at the time – a brand new role dedicated to helping the women find alternative employment due to the decision – and the answer was that nothing has been done.

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“This was a specific guarantee made as they were justifying their position and it’s incredibly concerning, especially in the context of a cost of living crisis, that it appears this promise has already been walked back on.

“The suggestion at the time from Labour was that the women are to find ‘more useful’ employment. There is every likelihood that they will face substantial difficulties in the job market and as a result may find themselves continuing in their current line of work in dangerous and unregulated spaces. Labour must step up and support the women by keeping the promise they made.”

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Former councillor and ex-police inspector Cameron Rose said there’s no grounds for putting in place specific measures to help strippers find other work.

Deputy council leader Mandy Watt said: “There are many other job opportunities out there in hospitality and other sectors. The dancers are not workers, they are performers and it’s not within the council’s gift to confer workers rights on them. I am keen to hear more from them and am happy to meet the union to discuss any particular challenges they face in getting other jobs and look at how our existing services could best support them.”