The project was showcased on Nordic Culture Point’s website.
Showcase: Artists’ right to payment
In the Nordic region, equality and workers’ rights are values that are deemed extremely important and are highly cherished. As a worker, one has certain rights for example, the right to a salary and vacation time. These rights are supposed to include all industries and workers. But the fact is that people in the creative industry are not always being remunerated for their work in the Nordic and Baltic region.
Norwegian freelance writer, Marta Breen, writes an open letter to fellow writers in Dagbladet 28 April 2014:
“One would never call a lawyer and ask him or her to give free legal advice. Or call a plumber and ask him or her to work without payment. But as a writer you are expected to sit down and prepare a presentation, travel to another city, and deliver that presentation. All this without payment”.
The difficult situation is not only limited to writers, but is a known problem among all workers in the creative industries. Visual Artists for example, are often put in an impossible position when it comes to exhibiting their work. They are expected to travel, use their own time, staff and money to display their work. Sometimes organisers even demand payment for exhibition venues.
Sweden has developed a standard agreement called MU Standard Agreement on costs and artists’ commission and exhibition remuneration for all publically funded projects, which helps artists negotiate their pay and compensation. This standard agreement serves as inspiration for a Nordic (and eventually European) framework agreement that a group of handpicked artists currently is researching and developing. The working group received Nordic Culture Point’s grant for capacity development.
The status of artist remuneration in the Nordic countries is varied, says project administrator, Guðrún Gísladóttir. Sweden is in the lead with its well-functioning MU agreement, including preparation and follow-up. Among other things, Swedish exhibition venues get graded on an index as to how well they comply with the framework agreement. This gives artists a good idea of venues to collaborate with.
All other Nordic countries have shown interest in establishing rules and some countries also have some sort of agreement in place, but none are as comprehensive as Sweden’s. One fundamental demand, is that the agreement should not be voluntary but mandatory in all Nordic countries, comments Guðrún Gísladóttir.
The project and working group aim to change the situation, starting with visual artists. Having a framework agreement would, according to the project application, support artists in negotiations and decrease the number of oral agreements that may be unbeneficial for artists. The working group also believes that well-planned and organized exhibitions and projects enhance the quality of life in any society, through high-quality work and increased interest from the public.
Guðrún Gísladóttir says, that the effects of the Swedish agreement are tangible. She believes a similar effect is to be expected in other Nordic countries, once the framework agreement is in place. Artists can display their work as a livelihood, which increases their self-confidence as artists, thus creating higher demand. They can take time to work on their pieces, creating higher-quality art, giving the public a more fulfilling experience. In turn, venues can demand a certain standard, which is a gain for all parties; the artists, the venue and the public. And most importantly, when the agreement is in place it gives the artists the support needed to demand fair contracts and remuneration for their work.
Studies show, that the creative industry is creating new jobs in the Nordic region even during an economic recession, thus building the economy and increasing sustainability. Guðrún Gísladóttir comments, that studies indicate that every euro invested in culture comes back manifold.
The working group continues its investigation into and creating of a framework agreement which could be used in all Nordic countries. A website is currently being built to help disperse information to actors in the creative industries.
Guðrún Gísladóttir comments on the development of the framework agreement:
“In Scandinavia we pay for work. But artists are not getting paid. It is not an impossible demand we are making, just a normal amount of money for a job well done.”
Article originally published in January 2015.