EDINBURGH’S Hogmanay organisers are facing growing pressure over controversial plans to recruit an army of unpaid workers after a leading charity pulled an advert for the volunteers.

Underbelly, which took over the running of the world-famous events earlier this year, wants more than 300 volunteers to help stage this year’s extravaganza.

But Volunteer Scotland has now removed a post on its website detailing how to apply for the roles following pressure from the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).

Bosses previously insisted the volunteers would not replace paid roles, and argued “Hogmanay will be enriched by giving people the opportunity to be involved on a voluntary basis”.

But trade unions branded the move “exploitative”, with Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay labelling it a “scandal”.

The STUC said Volunteer Scotland’s “de-legitimation of the roles” cast fresh doubt on Edinburgh Council’s ongoing support for Underbelly’s plans.

Deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said the STUC valued “genuine volunteering which is to the benefit of individual volunteers and society more generally”.

He added: “But the principles of volunteering risk being stretched to destruction by attempts of private events and entertainment companies like Underbelly.

“These companies prey on the young people trying to gain a foot-hold in industries like events and entertainment, and court organisations and public bodies to gain legitimacy.

“We need to be vigilant in preventing unpaid work from becoming the norm, and Volunteer Scotland's decision to remove the posts sets an encouraging precedent.

“We look forward to working with Volunteer Scotland to clarify that volunteering is about giving time to the community and society for its own sake, and not a cost-cutting fix for profit-making ventures.”

The STUC said “all promotion of Underbelly volunteering opportunities by Volunteer Scotland” had now been suspended amid an ongoing dispute over whether the volunteers will replace paid staff.

Edinburgh Council estimates the city's Hogmanay events bring in around £40 million every year, with tickets to the world-famous street party costing £26.

Underbelly – one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s biggest venue operators – won a contract to take over the event earlier this year.

Advertising the volunteer positions, which included supervisors and “street party hosts”, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay said they would be the “welcoming faces” of the event.

It said all volunteers would be provided with meal vouchers, “reasonable” travel expenses and a “personalised certificate” sent by email.

The move marked the first time unpaid workers would be used during the Hogmanay celebrations, which were previously run by Unique Events.

Organisers have promised this year’s bash will be “revamped, refreshed and re-energized”, with a six-hour street party hosted by Scottish comedian Sanjeev Kohli.

But Bryan Simpson, an organiser with trade union group Better than Zero, said Underbelly’s volunteer roles displaced paid work and included mandatory training and set shifts.

He said: “Any credibility that Underbelly had to justify these jobs as genuine volunteer opportunities has now vanished like the wages that the workers should be getting.

“Volunteering should be about giving-back to your local community not lining the pockets of private companies like Underbelly who have contributed very little to the people.”

Edinburgh Council has previously supported Underbelly’s use of volunteers, after running a similar scheme during the August festivals.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s culture leader, said: “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a living wage event but, like most festivals and major events, it also offers unique opportunities for volunteers to be part of something special.

“This summer, for instance, we saw citizens take to the streets to champion Edinburgh in August as part of a pilot project with Festivals Edinburgh.

“This is Underbelly taking inspiration from this scheme, with a programme which allows those who are interested to be part of their production."

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Council said: "We understand Volunteer Scotland has made this decision pending further discussions with all parties. The council will do whatever possible to help resolve this matter as early as possible."

A spokeswoman for Underbelly said: “Underbelly absolutely refutes STUC’s claims that our volunteer programme replaces any paid for roles and stand by our ambassador programme and the mutual benefits that it is set to bring.

“It is completely unfounded that we are looking to replace paid for employment. Anything to the contrary is pure subjection.

“Underbelly welcomed the invitation to meet with the STUC and Volunteer Scotland to discuss STUC concerns surrounding the volunteer engagement campaign.

“However, at the request of the STUC, this meeting went ahead without Underbelly present. Volunteer Scotland has told us that they have removed their advertisement to maintain a balanced position until these talks had taken place.

“We are actively seeking to meet with the STUC as soon as possible and we are very much open to continuing a dialogue with key partners which further develops future opportunities and ensures that we are delivering the best possible experience and practice.”