I WANT to end the practice of unpaid trial shifts in our city.

I want this to be another area where Brighton and Hove leads the way in ethical employment, in worker’s rights and in fairness. That’s what sets our city apart, after all.

Unpaid trial shifts are when someone is asked to work for free to see if they are good enough to do the job. And it’s just not on. I don’t think anyone should be expected to work for free.

These are not the values of our city. The council is currently running a consultation inviting workers and businesses to share their experiences.

It’s open until December 8 and if you or anyone you know has had to work one or more unpaid trial shifts please do fill in the short survey on the council website.

The more people respond the more we can understand the scale of the problem and exactly how to address it.

When I became a councillor, I supported some BHASVIC students in getting a grassroots campaign off the ground to ‘Say No To Unpaid Trail Shifts’ in the city.

The campaign was really exciting. The students designed a logo, printed stickers, set up social media feeds and a website.

They canvassed local businesses and reached out to those who have worked unpaid trial shifts. They took part in radio interviews and spoke at a workshop with businesses.

I was really inspired by the tireless work these young people put in to try and end the exploitation their fellow workers faced. They found along the way that it was mainly young people like them who were disproportionately affected by this unfair practice.

We found that it was cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels – the backbone of our tourist economy – that was so often responsible for this unpaid work.

We ran a survey and heard from workers of all ages on their experiences in this and other industries.

We also organised an action day where we visited local pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops to talk to the owners. We got some great responses including from Bagelman who condemned this unfairness and were willing to put campaign stickers in their windows.

However, the results of our survey of workers were quite shocking.

We had over 200 responses over a three-week period. More than nine out of ten respondents said they disapproved or strongly disapproved of the practice. Seven out of ten had been asked to work an unpaid trial shift. Over half said they were in pubs, cafes, restaurants or hotels. Two thirds were 30 or younger.

One young person told us, “When I asked for my wages that I said I’d been on a ‘trial’ shift and would not be paid”.

Whilst another one said, “They wanted me to do a full week of unpaid work as a trial”.

What’s worse is over half never got the job afterwards.

Let that sink in for a moment. Over half of those who had worked for free to get a job never even got the job. This is because in reality - often no job existed. They were purely exploited for their free labour.

Some told us this was really common; where pubs and bars for example would use trial shifts to cover busy nights like New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day or Pride when really no job was waiting for applicants the next day.

Another young person revealed: “Yes they rang me up and asked me to do an eight hour shift on a bar on Mothers’ Day. I was the only one on the bar and the place was packed. At the end of the shift I had taken 800 quid. The owner said I’d done wonderful she was so grateful and would be in touch I never heard again It was just a way of free labour for the busiest day of the year.”

We heard that students, young people and newcomers to the city were often targeted for this. One experienced bartender told us,

“There are a number of pubs bartenders become aware not to take trial shifts at, as they will simply use the free labour on busy nights e.g. Friday, Saturdays, with no intention of offering a position, often with said bars there isn’t actually vacancy but they need staff for the night. Sadly many of students/newcomers to Brighton are unaware these pubs work this way and this is how they continue getting away with it.”

This proved to be an issue that did not just impact upon young people. One woman who responded to the survey was over the age of 60 and told us she had to clean for a trial shift without pay, and that this was not uncommon in the cleaning industry.

We are asking workers and businesses to tell us about their experiences here - https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/business-and-trade/support-businesses/end-unpaid-trial-shifts-brighton-hove. Let’s live up to our ethical reputation and end unpaid trial shifts in our City.