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Glasto defends litterpickers’ “temporary worker” status

Glastonbury Festival has stood by its decision to employ hundreds of people on temporary ‘zero-hours’ contracts to clean up after this year’s event.

In a piece for The Independent last week, Roisin O’Connor, the paper’s music correspondent, alleged Glastonbury had “exploited” some 700 workers from across the EU by hiring them on zero-hours contracts and then sacking them after two days.

O’Connor writes:

Organisers were accused of taking advantage of some 700 people who were signed up as litterpickers expecting two weeks of paid employment after the acts and festivalgoers had gone home, only to leave some three quarters stranded and out of pocket in the Somerset countryside. […]

However, it appears that this year’s good weather, as well as the use of charity workers and on-site litter crews during the festival, meant that there was less rubbish [than expected] after the event had finished.

One worker, Czech Simon Kadlcak, told The Independent that 600 of the 700 workers were laid off after two days after being told there was not enough work for them. “There are people without work still sleeping in tents here because they have nowhere to go,” he said. “They were expecting two weeks of work.”

The allegations came after a highly publicised appearance at the festival by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party, whose party has pledged to ban zero-hours contracts. In a statement issued after the Independent story, a spokesman for Corbyn said: “Jeremy and the Labour party have taken a very strong stand against the use of zero-hours contracts, the exploitation of migrant and other workers and the spread of all manner of insecure agency working, and we would take that view wherever it happened.”

In a statement released yesterday afternoon, festival organiser Glastonbury Festival Events Ltd corroborated the story, saying that a “fantastic effort from festivalgoers in taking their belongings home” meant clean-up work was finished after two and a half days. The variable length of the clean-up period is, says Glastonbury, something temporary staff “are made aware of in their worker agreements”.

The festival’s full statement is reproduced below:

In response to recent stories in the media, we would like to state that Glastonbury Festival’s post-event litterpicking team are all given temporary worker agreements for the duration of the clean-up. As well as being paid, they are provided with free meals and access to on-site facilities.

The length of the clean-up varies considerably from year to year, based largely upon the weather conditions before, during and after the festival. This is something the litterpickers – many of whom return year after year – are made aware of in their worker agreements (which assure them of a minimum of eight hours’ work).

This year was an unusually dry one for Glastonbury. That, coupled with a fantastic effort from festivalgoers in taking their belongings home, meant that the bulk of the litter picking work was completed after 2.5 days (in 2016, a very wet year, the equivalent period was around 10 days).

All but a core crew of litterpickers were advised that there was no further work available after Friday (June 30). Those who weren’t able to leave the site over the weekend were given further meals, plus assistance with travel to nearby towns with public transport links.

We’d like to thank the litter pickers for their work on the clean-up, which was – as always – hugely valued by the festival.

Glastonbury Festival will return in 2019 following a ‘fallow’ year next year.


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