Skilled professionals were asked to work for free on the London-organised Olympic handover ceremony in Beijing, according to angry trade unions.
Tony Lennon, president of entertainment union Bectu, revealed that his members had been told the prestige of the event should be enough for them.
He told delegates at the TUC Congress in Brighton last week that the situation was unacceptable, and that it must be prevented from happening at the 2012 Games.
Lennon told Personnel Today: “People approached our members – designers, production managers and so on – to persuade them to work for nothing on the handover in Beijing.
“There is a budget of almost £10bn for the London Olympics, and while 100,000 people have applied to be volunteers, there are all sorts of professional, health and safety and security issues, and we need skilled people.”
He added that talks on staffing arrangements were due between unions and the organising committee of the London Olympics (Locog).
“We will be laying down a fairly firm marker that volunteers are not appropriate for all jobs,” Lennon said.
“There are concerns that with its enormous budget, Locog is under pressure to cut costs where it can.”
Locog denied approaching people to work for nothing.