Christian Artists Seminar

New expected dates are not known due to corona

Conclusions of the subjects 2013

Theme 2013 : How is life, work, income after the crisis in the sector arts/culture

From 3 to 8 August 2013 took place in Bad Honnef, Germany, a seminar with the title “New challenges for the social dialogue – How is life, work, income after the crisis?”, organized by CNV-KB (CNV Kunstenbond), with the support of EZA and of the European Union.
Introduction by Leen La Riviere, chairman of the CNV-KB (Christian Artists trade union):
WHY do we need a SOCIAL DIALOGUE about building blocks for the future.
HOW IS LIFE , WORK, INCOME AFTER THE CRISIS, especially in the cultural-arts sectors. And how to use those insights for improvements (in the cultural/arts sectors.)


Europe faces a moment of transformation. The crisis has wiped out years of economic and social progress and exposed structural weaknesses in Europe's economy. 80 million of EU population were at risk of poverty prior to the crisis. 19 million of them are children. 8 per cent of people in work do not earn enough to make it above the poverty threshold. Unemployed people are particularly exposed. The financial and economic crisis that started in 2008 resulted in a significant loss in jobs and potential output and has led to a dramatic deterioration in public finances. The crisis also underscored the close interdependence of the Member States’ economies and labour markets.
Keeping this situation in mind the seminar wants to shed light on the situation of a specific group of workers – artists and cultural workers. Artists in this case are defined as workers in every field of art, culture, commercial design, day time production and media and build the “cultural capital” of European society. Over the last 15 years the growing importance of the cultural sector as a new ‘employment-engine’ for cities and countries has been recognised. The European Commission has put stress on the potential of cultural cities and cultural industries in their “Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries” report, published in April 2010.
Due to the current economic situation and the growing budget cuts within the EU, employment possibilities for artists seem to be on the decline. At the same time the amount of tax money spend for the cultural sector is decreasing. Interesting new job opportunities lie within the provision and creation of a new cultural infrastructure and the growing awareness for the potential of cultural cities.
This seminar wants to think about more and better jobs for the cultural and creative sector and widen vision and opportunities for new employment possibilities. Focus shall be put on artists’ trade unions and their possibilities to improve the working situation, the working conditions and the payment situation of their members and to elaborate strategic insights for new strategic policies.
As mentioned in the Strategy “Europe 2020” it will be important “to turn creative ideas into innovative products, services and processes that can create growth, quality jobs, territorial, economic and social cohesion”. Here the cultural and creative sector can play a key role in elaborating new ideas. Due to the fact that the Europe 2020 strategy should be implemented in partnership with all national, regional and local authorities, closely associating parliaments, as well as social partners and representatives of civil society it could also be a great chance to integrate workers from the cultural and creative sector on a local, regional, national and European level in the development and implementation of creative and innovative ideas.
The cultural and creative sector is characterised by the high mobility and flexibility of its mainly self-employed workforce. The current situation on the labour market for this group of workers is rather difficult due to several reasons:

  • The amount of tax money spent for the cultural and creative sector is decreasing.
  • The high flexibility is leading to an unstable employment situation.
  • The working conditions and the payment situation is rather bad.
  • The self-employed workers in the cultural and creative sector are difficult to organise by trade unions.
  • It is difficult to bargain collective agreements or a minimum salary within this sector due to very different working realities.

The Seminar contained the following lectures:

Day 1: SUNDAY August 4. The negative effects of flexability and ways out.
Prof. Maarten Verkerk, University of Maastricht, NL
Companies have the tendency to lay off workers. Such worker becomes selfemployed, or will work via a mediation-company. The same worker come back in the original company, doing the same work for much lesser income. The example of mr.Gerhard B., ict, design, dtp, etc etc. Typical example of the American libertine capitalistic mentality. Of course such situations are not wanted. Or a company lays off workers and next hires for the same jobs cheap labor from Bulgaria, Romania, etc. Companies misuse the crisis. But what can we do to stop the erosion of work-conditions. What are roles of the trade unions here. Good practises, suggestions.

Day 2: MONDAY August 5. Pressure on health, growing risks; be smart… insights and precaution by Silviu Ispas, Ifes,Cluj, Romania
The above mentioned situations have another effect. For the flex-working force c.q. selfemployed, they are paid to finish a project. They are not paid per hour. As the money for a project is under pressure, it leads to the following situations:
many hours work per day, to get the job done. Examples are 16 hours work non-stop. Nobody can control that, as much work is done at home behind computers.
In the field of architecture, construction, building, chemical, etc it leads to greater health risks, because if you are selfemployed, you need to take care for your own risks. Such worker is in several cases not protected by the collectice bargains. Examples where work-givers hired selfemployed Bulgarians/Romanians to do extreme dangerous work and no insurance, security, protection and such. Such pressure towards many more hours with less per hour is as well found in the cultural sector.
Companies misuse the crisis. But what can we do to stop the erosion of work-conditions. What are roles of the trade unions here. Good practises, suggestions.

Day 3: TUESDAY August 6. Society under pressure: growing local tensions… or building peace between communities? Dr.Geoffrey Stevenson, University of Edinburgh, UK
Urban communities have always been vulnerable to economic forces, being created and destroyed, dispersed and remade by factors beyond local control. Labor migration is happening all across the EU, and every city has to absorb ‘strangers’: huge numbers in some cities, e.g the banlieus (suburbs) of Paris, or immigrant populations exceeding 50% of the population in cities such as Rotterdam. This places crippling strains on infrastructures (housing, schooling, benefit provision) and divisive changes in cultural expressions (language, customs, religious and legal practice). Exploitative landlords, poor diet, alcohol and drug dependency, public spending cuts, long term unemployment: these contribute to poverty, civic unrest, and racial and ethnic clashes. How can trade-unions work with local government and leaders of religious communities to address such problems? Can the arts help to bridge gaps and improve understanding with positive practical results? Building peace and trust between communities divided along sectarian, racial and ethnic lines requires a bottom-up approach that includes the arts. Practitioners must work at the local level giving a voice to the voiceless, finding and exploring common artistic ground, giving space to imagine alternative futures marked by shared values such as creativity, cooperation, justice, mercy, and hope. Doing nothing is not an option.

Day 4: WEDNESDAY August 7. Pressure on youth and cross-generetical solidarity. We all need each other, standing together. Dr.Célia Costa, Portugal
Example Spain, general unemployment is 25%, unemployment among youth is appr.40%.
Example: if a work supplier can choose between a native young worker and an immigrant young worker, what will he choose?
Example: young workers (if they have work) start very late with participating in privat pension funds. 60+ workers have difficulty with that. Or with the needed reform of pension systems, the young workers expect that older workers benefit more/better.
Suspensions are arising all over, so what can we do, should trade-unions to realise new solidarity: between new comers and national/local workers; between young and older workers, etc. to overcome growing tensions and restore trust, solidarity.


  1. Prof . Ward Roofthooft, Belgium gave an additional workshop how artists can work on sufficient income, as the crisis hits hard in this sector and unemployment is arising.
  2. Each morning Zsuzanna Torok did a series workshop on the importance and implications of the social dialogue.
  3. Each evening Leen La Rivière did the closing lecture putting plenum, forum and debates together in an inspirational address.

Participants were present from 17 nations; they were all active in a kind of cultural or creative, c.q. artistic work c.q. studying in those sectors or being lector or teacher in those sectors, all being member of a trade-union c.q. the European department of CNV Kunstenbond=Christian artists.
The 4 conference days had as schedule: in the morning plenum: lecture of a key speaker, followed by a Forum and discussions. In the evening Leen La Rivière (chairman) concluded some helpful building blocks for the future. Speakers were: Prof. Maarten Verkerk (University of Maastricht), Dr. Geoffrey Stevenson (University of Edenborough), Silviu Ispas (Ifes, Cluj-Romania), Dr. Celia Costa (Portugal), Leen La Rivière (Chairman CNV-KB, the Netherlands) and Prof. Ward Roofthooft (Belgium); reporter Dr. Zsuszanna Torok, Hungary.

Content conclusions and suggestions:

  1. All across Europe nations, provinces/counties and cities are making major budget cuts on the sector arts/culture, resulting in an increasing bad climate for every worker in that sector in spite of protests of trade unions.
  2. All across Europe nations, provinces/counties and cities are making major budget cuts on the sector arts/culture, resulting in an increasing in a fast arising unemployment in that sector. Trade unions are protesting, but with almost no success. Trade unions should start to think about new plans for re-training, plans for cooperatives, helping jobless cultural workers/artists to consider start working as self-employed teachers.
  3. All across Europe nations, provinces/counties and cities are making major budget cuts on the sector arts/culture, resulting in a contradiction of the plan of the EU ‘cultural cities, cultural industries’. As budget cuts keep happening, the possibility of creating new work across Europe by creative innovation will stop and is already dramatic. Trade unions have to ask the EU about the clash between the hard reality and their ideas. Second, what will be EU measures.
  4. Budget cuts are the cause of closing local music schools, conservatoria, professional art schools, local creative centres, orchestra’s, dance companies, exhibition locations, etc. This all limits the development of local e-intelligence, the basis of creative thinking, needed as foundation for ‘cultural cities, cultural industries’. Trade unions should start to think about new plans for re-training, plans for cooperatives, helping jobless cultural workers/artists to consider start working as self-employed teachers.
  5. Because of budget cuts (as well by companies, work providers), we see a fast increasing risk for working long hours and health risks. As example: an order for a website had 8 years ago a value of appr. 12.000 Euro, today such creator will be happy to get 1200 Euro for the building of the same website. 5 years ago a band of 5 persons would get 1500 Euro for a gig, the twill be happy to get today 500… So to get a kind of minimum income workers in the cultural/arts sector have to work so many more hours; and proved is they take high health risks (in the area of too many hours a day, travel, use of chemicals, loudness, etc.). We ask trade unions to start with a solid information campaign explaining risks and measures for precaution.
  6. As those workers are no longer employed, but are forced into self-employment, all rules and regulations are not valid. Who will control in the personal workshops, computer rooms, study rooms the number of hours spent on productions? The materials and chemicals used? Here we ask trade unions to start discussions with the health care institutions of the various governments.
  7. As those workers are no longer employed, but are forced into self-employment, all rules and regulations are not valid, that has as well a long lasting effect on insurances, and building up a pension(these self-employed workers cannot pay private pension plans). Here we call on governments to change existing regulations, as the growing army of self-employed will make the existing pension systems implode within a number of years. As result: "To counterbalance the workers’ situations - the bad trends on the labour market - we might need a stronger state in the coming times - but not stronger in financial deregulation or subsidizing big companies through financial incentives - even if indirectly, through the workers who are self-employed or not paid correctly." Trade unions should put this problem on the political agenda’s in their nations.
  8. The rising unemployment is feeding tensions in a number of local societies: cheap migrant workers take work away, so is the general thought. Honest figures say: migrant workers do work that local workers do not want to do (low pay for low-quality (dirty) work). But so many do not read the real facts or refuse to understand them. Populists misuse those situations for their own political agenda. And this has effect on local peace and harmony. Here CNV-KB calls upon churches, artists, art-groups, cultural workers, trade-unions to be involved in local peace making, as they are able to bridge the gap and show alternatives for real understanding.
  9. But worse: as result of the crisis in any area or city of Europe we find today migrants, living in ghettos. Here CNV-KB calls upon churches, artists, art-groups, cultural workers, trade-unions to be involved in integration processes, as they are able to bridge the gap and can work on understanding and fellowship.
  10. Trade unions should adapt to the new circumstances - and they started it already. Being proactive not only accompanying the restructuring reactive. Expanding the portfolio of collective bargaining including the preferred EU horizontal policies (ICT, green economy). Broadening the target group of the activities: to focus all the vulnerable workers` situations (self-employed, especially for cultural workers/artists). to find possible co-operations: with chambers (of commerce e.g.), with consumer protection organizations (a great field of our vulnerability)."
  11. EU policy should stay away from the American neo-libertine economic models and should work with the Rhineland economic models: a social economy where labour is not ‘just a cost-factor’ but where employees are the precious cultural-capital of a company. Not maximizing profit of the share-holders should be leading motive…. But taking in consideration all the stake holders…

This summary and suggestions show that the project goals were reached as structural conditions in this work sector are changing and what those changes mean for the trade unions.