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Conference "PrivARTised - outsorcing and workers' resistance in culture sector”

Conference "PrivARTised - outsorcing and workers' resistance in culture sector”

On 7-8 October 2017 on the premises of the Theatre Institute in Warsaw (Jazdów  Street 1) an international trade union conference of the cultural sector will take place. The event is organised by the Red and Black Coordination (an international network of unions to which the Workers’ Initiative belongs).

Facebook event: [Click HERE]

Registration form: [Click HERE

 Below we present a provisional description of problems which will be addressed during our discussions:

All around the world, the cultural sector similarly to another public services is undergoing a process of deep, structural changes in the spehere of labour relations. Outsourcing, privatisation of public institutions (also by subjugating them to the management of certain NGOs), an increased pressure on commercial performance, cuts in public spending on culture and pressing towards the „project model” of work become more and more common problems.  Cultural institutions are forced to cut the labour costs, increase their use of unpaid work, commercialise their offer and become dependent on private financial resources. New Public Management and public-private partnership together with the vision of „modern”, technology-infused and „flexible” cultural institutions produce destabilisation and at the same time sustain the authoritarian managmenet model practised by corporate-minded „professional managing directors”. 

In Poland the sphere of culture is also endangered by the government’s  attempts to subordinate it  to its interests and make it a tool of the nationalistic and conservative propaganda. 

Considering all the above, it is crucial to have an adequate union answer at the local and international level. We hope that the conference „PrivARTised – outsourcing and resistance in culture” will help to achieve that. The initiator of the conference is the Workers’ Initiative supported by other member unions of the Red and Black Coordination. The event is aimed at:

- Exchange of experiences between trade unions and social movements active in the sphere of culture

- Analysis and critique of workers’ situation in the cultural sector

- Starting an international, sectoral cooperation


Thematic blocs:

Introduction – situation of workers in the cultural sector across selected European countries

Each organisation will have 10 minutes to present an overview of general conditions and crucial struggles in the cultural sector in their countries of origin. They will be asked to indicate potential areas of international cooperation. 


This block will be devoted to various forms of outsourcing delivered by external companies and temp agencies (cleaning, security but also other works such as museum guiding and supporting works in theatres). Among the consequences of outsourcing are: weakening of trade unions and workers’ solidarity, lowering wages and destabilisation of employment. We want to analyse the phenomenon of outsourcing in culture and compare different experiences of resistance against it. 

The mixture of the feudal, authoritarian management, the „project model” of work and the commercialising drive results in the establishement of a specific kind of a cultural institution. It creates new divisions among workers and undermines their dignity. Job security is lowered and so is the sense of the workers’ community. We aim at finding alternatives to this model and address the following issues: how the workers’ participation in management can be helpful? Could cultural institutions become the institutions of the common good?

Models of cultural institutions management and workers' participation in management processes

A mix of authoritarian management with "project model" of work and pressure on comertialisaton altogether result in a creation of specific model of cultural institution. This model multiplies the exploitation of workforce and brings various divisions between workers. All those factors combined together result in decrease of the safety and collectivvity of work and affects in a negative way both work and culture itself.

In this bloc we want to answer the following questions: What alternative to this model can we propose? How workers' participation in management can be an alternativve to this processes? How we can enforce workers influence on decision-making processes in cultural institutions? What actions should we undertake aiming to build real workers' self-managament?

Struggle for the workers’ rights and the „project model” of work

The „project model” has become the dominant form of work in the cultural sector. Being a highly destabilising factor for the cultural jobs it also forces their performers to conform to often ideologically motivated decisions of officials. This model, as well as the „culture of self-employment” is typical not only for the NGOs but also for the public institutions of culture. They have been transformed from workplaces into „project operators”. In result, precarity has become widespread and opportunities to wage workers’ struggle with use of legal instruments available to full-time workers have been severely limited. The division between full-timers and precarious „project workers” weakens the struggle and disrupts unity. 

During our discussions in this bloc  we would like to address the following issues: what strategies for struggle shall we choose for the cultural sector? Expanding the field of struggle: are there  new groups within the cultural precariat whom we should invite to join? How to widen the scope od activities of the union’s workplaces units in order to respond to the the needs of precarious workers, including the art creators?

Unpaid and volunteer work as the necessary conditions for the functioning of the neoliberal cultural industry – successes and failiures of struggle for unionising the unpaid workers

Although not entirely succesful, the struggles for the establishement of artists’ unions in Poland have been conducted for several years now, the interests of the unpaid, those on internship and those severely underpaid for their work in the field of culture remain an important challenge.  We would like to discuss various opportunities and strategies for organisation in this sphere. 

Solidarity beyond professional and sectoral divisions

Union units in the cultural sector are often focused on their own problems in a way which results in a specific „exclusiveness” and alienation from other struggles. However, many examples of inter-sectoral solidarity can be found as well (for example the cases of Amazon workers, univeristy cleaning staff or local courts staff which even inspired unionised artists to produce struggle-related works). Seeking connections and wide solidarity is one of the most important tasks of a militant union. Builiding such inter-sectoral connections in struggle for the workers’ rights will be the main theme od this bloc.

Situation of temporary workers in the cultural sector – the struggle for the social security of precarious cultural workers

A few years ago, precarious workers of the cultural sectors in France and Poland have begun simultaneous struggles. Those in France revolted against the restrictions of access to the unemployment security benefit. In Poland, the workers demanded the creation of a pension system for artists. We would like to compare those mobilisations and reflect together on what can we learn from them. 

Common initiatives and further international cooperation – working discussion

Summing up the conference, we will discuss the plans for future cooperation on the international level and how to combat internal divisions. We would like to focus on methods of strenghtening our struggles through international contacts and formulating common demands. Another important issue will be the methods of inclusion of grassroots unions from beyond the EU into our endeavours. 


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