The queue outside Trinity before the 2012 May BallMark91/Wikimedia Commons

Set-up volunteers for the Trinity May Ball left a group chat after they were told that they would be given the right to buy next year’s tickets instead of being paid minimum wage.

The May Ball committee agreed a deal where student volunteers, responsible for setting up the ball before it takes place, would work two four hour shifts in return for the right to buy next year’s Trinity May Ball ticket at full price.

In a WhatsApp group chat for the volunteers, the committee initially told them that they would receive the minimum wage as well as the right to buy a ticket.

However, they then backtracked on this, clarifying that they would only receive the right to buy a ticket and not minimum wage.

One member of the committee told the group chat: “For the slave labour you will receive the option to buy a ticket to the ball, and queue jump.” They also asked members to leave if they were no longer happy to work under these conditions.

Following this, many students left the group chat.


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Trinity May Ball to pay workers living wage

One anonymous student told Varsity that they decided not to work because of the conditions of pay, saying: “I think it’s appalling that a college with such a huge endowment and a May Ball with such a huge budget can get away with not paying their workers.”

They added: “A few people on the chat mentioned how it seemed like slave labour and, while that might be a bit dramatic, I just don’t understand how it’s legal to make people work eight hours only to get the right to buy a £200 ticket.”

When asked for comment, the committee said that the set-up helpers were volunteers, not workers.

In a statement, they said: “Trinity May Ball traditionally offers students the opportunity to volunteer to help with setting up the Ball. In light of their hard work, we offer a right to buy a ticket to the Ball and a queue jump in return.

“We would like to emphasise that these students kindly volunteer their time. They are not workers and are not under any contractual obligation to the Trinity May Ball committee.”

Despite this, many of those applying were under the impression that they would be paid for helping to set up the ball.

The news follows the committee’s u-turn nearly a month ago, to pay their general workers the living wage instead of the minimum wage. Prior to this, the Trinity May Ball committee had been the only one planning to pay its workers the minimum wage.

Corrections were made to this article on 7/3 to specify status of the set-up volunteers.