Flagship golf tournament used volunteers as shop assistants, MSPs told

A major golf event coming to Scotland this year will not use volunteers as shop assistants, unlike the Ryder Cup, MSPs have been told.

Flagship international women’s golf tournament the Solheim Cup is being held at Gleneagles in September, five years after the Ryder Cup took place there.

Giving evidence to MSPs on Scotland’s updated volunteer charter, Volunteer Scotland chief executive George Thomson said a change to stop using volunteer shop assistants fits in the with new guidelines which outline 10 principles for fair volunteering.

He said: “The Ryder Cup was a great volunteering experience but there were some roles there which were about shop assistants being volunteers.”

He said since the charter has been updated by his organisation and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (Stuc), this would be a breach of the principle that volunteers should not be used to generate profit for owners.

“That’s a specific example of how the charter is saying that’s not acceptable – you shouldn’t have a volunteer merchandise worker selling t-shirts for private profit in a context like that and that’s been accepted,” he added.

“It’s really great to say that for the Solheim Cup…that’s been stopped. So there’s been a shift.”

Mr Thomson said the revised charter is stronger, has a greater focus on what is a legitimate form of volunteering and emphasises the positive elements for volunteers.

He said: “If the motivation behind a role is about fundraising and mutual support, it will not become a question.

“If the motivation is to prevent paying for somebody…then that could raise questions about the legitimacy of it.”

The updated charter was launched last month following a review sparked by  Stuc claiming adverts for voluntary positions on the Volunteering Scotland website were “exploitative” and that “the principles of volunteering risk being stretched to destruction”.

Further principles include that volunteers should not carry out duties formerly carried out by paid workers, that the activity should be the freely made choice of the volunteer and that out of pocket expenses should be covered.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress also gave evidence to the committee.

He said companies had changed practices after being sent legal letters from unions about using volunteering to evade minimum wage legislation.

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