People are working unpaid trial work shifts in Brighton and Hove without a job at the end.
A day of action took place on Saturday (July 21) to highlight and oppose the practice.
Labour councillor Nancy Platts spoke about the issue at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council at Hove Town Hall on Thursday (July 19).
She said that bars, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and shops were all asking people to work for nothing often at busy times of the week.
She proposed a motion calling on the council chief executive Geoff Raw to work with businesses to tackle the problem.
Cllr Platts said: “It is degrading and exploitative. They are used at busy times such as weekends or busy days.
“People work hard and want to hear if they are offered a job.”
She said that 221 people had responded to a survey about unpaid trial shifts, with 156 saying that they had been asked to carry out unpaid work.
Of these just 72 – fewer than a third – were offered a job afterwards.
Cllr Platts told the council how students arriving in the city are caught unaware by businesses advertising a vacancy where there is none, but they just want some extra staff working free for the night.
Sharing stories from people she had spoken to, she told colleagues about someone who had covered a few shifts for a company only to be told it was a trial.
Another person started working for a company and after three days decided they wanted to leave, only to be told that they would not be paid.
The previous week a 16-year-old had worked the same job without pay.
Seconding the motion, fellow Labour councillor Saoirse Horan shared her own experience after working two shifts at a restaurant that refused to pay her when she was a teenager.
She told the full council meeting how her parents came with her to ask for her pay: “It was embarrassing to do this but I had someone to fight my corner.”
Cllr Horan pointed out that many students are far from home and do not have anyone to back them up.
An amendment put forward by Green councillor Tom Druitt, backed by party colleague Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty named organisations that the council should consult.
It also asked Mr Raw to write to business secretary Greg Clark about the issue.
A further amendment calling for a wider consultation into unpaid trial shifts across all private, public and voluntary organisations was proposed by Conservative councillor Steve Bell and seconded by his Tory colleague Garry Peltzer Dunn.
Cllr Platts welcomed all the amendments and the motion was carried unanimously.
The day of action took place from 11am to 1pm on Saturday outside the Jubilee Library, Brighton.
A report into unpaid shifts will go before the council’s policy, resources and growth committee.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.