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Artists' Remuneration (Continued)

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 988 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan] My Department has also worked to address conditions and employment rights in the performing arts and screen industry in conjunction with the relevant agencies under its remit.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  It is important to note that employees in every industry, including those working in the arts and film sectors, are entitled to all existing legal protections, which includes new legislation under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours.

  The House may also be aware that the Workplace Relations Commission is undertaking an audit of the independent film and television drama production sector with a view to examining industrial relations generally.

  The Government will continue to give consideration to measures to further deliver on its commitments but will balance supports to ensure that they are felt across the sector.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We need to realise that we are in a bad situation. It is against a background where this country's international reputation rests to a large extent on the reputation of our artists, musicians, writers, actors, theatre producers and so on. Despite this, we spend a miserable 0.1% of GDP, the lowest in Europe, on the arts. The Minister provided a miserable €5 million increase in the arts budget recently. The consequence for artists is that 80% of them are in precarious jobs and 60% earn less than the average industrial wage. On average, workers in the sector earn less money and work fewer hours than others and the average wage is something like two thirds of the national average. We treat artists and workers in the arts with contempt. I do not see how the miserable increase in funding in the budget will do anything to address that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Burton on the same matter.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I know the Minister was a novelist in the past. Were Sean O’Casey writing about the likes of the Young Covey today, the characters would be struggling artists because they are the people at the bottom of the heap, struggling on less than the minimum wage. The data are available for the Minister. Artists should not have to look for a minimum wage; they should be looking to have a living wage. The second reason O'Casey would be writing about people still being in tenement style accommodation is that the artists we recently met at the forum our colleague, Deputy Smyth, helped to organise basically cannot look forward to any security with regard to housing. Some artists now spend approximately 80% of a very small income on housing. The Minister has responsibility for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht. It is sad that we are talking about a social welfare scheme for artists. The Minister should address the issue of artists' employment and not just pass it on to social welfare, which is administered by a different Department for a different purpose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I have to take the reply. There will be a chance for a supplementary question.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Can I just finish on this?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I have had a bad day.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Of the €5 million given to the Arts Council, €3.75 million was a reallocation-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There are other Members here.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton -----so the real increase is €1.25 million.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I remind both Deputies of the Arts Council's press release on the budget. Deputy Boyd Barrett said the increase was a miserable one. The Arts Council stated that it welcomes the increase of €5 million. The Taoiseach has committed to doubling funding for the arts by 2025. We still intend to do that and we are on a trajectory to achieve it but we are all aware that this was not a normal budget in normal circumstances. Under those circumstances, the Arts Council has accepted that and it is best placed to discuss the matter. I am satisfied that the €80 million we secured this year, the highest level of funding in over a decade, was positive rather than negative. We should not try to mislead people in that regard.

Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned our international reputation and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Our artists speak volumes about our global reputation. I wrote a novel and understand how difficult it is for people to earn a living. I could not have given up my job to write books. I am acutely aware of that but it is facetious to say that a social welfare scheme does not assist people because it does.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Four years after the Taoiseach made his commitment, funding for the arts has increased by 15% or 16% but it still stands at 0.1% of GDP. We are nowhere near being on a trajectory to double arts funding. In People Before Profit's budget submission for the past three or four years, we proposed doubling the arts budget, which would have enormous benefits for this country economically and socially as well as for artists. What else would the Arts Council say given that it is dependent on funding from the Minister? It will not say anything too loudly against her. The National Campaign for the Arts expressed considerable disappointment at the increase in funding.

I have repeatedly raised the issue of film crews. We need to do something about the fact that €80 million goes into film every year and nobody in the sector has any security because of the designated activity company, DAC, structure through which the money is filtered. Something needs to be done to address that and to give income and employment security to film crew. More generally, we need to look after our artists.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, we expect the Minister to fight for artists who are genuinely struggling to cope with low pay, poor terms and conditions and sporadic work. In particular, they are struggling to rent spaces in which to carry out rehearsals and other artistic work. They are also struggling to hold on to art spaces and access rent at a reasonable rate. Artists are the backbone of the artistic concept of Ireland and the Minister is neither here nor there. The working artists make Ireland a country with a calling card and reputation which is so positive with regard to the arts. Why can the Minister not champion a living wage and affordable housing for artists? I would think that is absolutely within the remit of any Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth The Minister has spoken a number of times today about the Arts Council being happy with its budget. In an interview on the day of the budget, the new chairman of the Arts Council, Professor Kevin Rafter, expressed the hope that funding for the arts would increase by 10%. He must have been bitterly disappointed. Research carried out earlier this year by Theatre Forum, members of which attended a meeting in Leinster House recently, on pay and conditions for performing artists showed that one third of artists earn less than the minimum wage, and that working in the performing arts is characterised by poor working conditions and precarious employment. People in the sector have no healthcare, job security, childcare, maternity leave or pension. The Minister has to do something for them.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I did not say the Arts Council was happy with the increase but rather that it welcomed it-----

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth That is the same thing.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan -----under the difficult circumstances of this budget. On the report that was cited, it should be noted that the category in question is much wider than just the arts sector. It also includes gambling and betting activities, as well as sports, amusements and recreation. I commend Deputy Boyd Barrett for creating a policy initiative in the first instance because the Labour Party and Deputy Burton have not yet produced any form of a policy document.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Excuse me, I produced a major policy document.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I did not interrupt Deputy Burton.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Minister has not read her brief. That is her problem. We will send it in the post to her.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan I will answer the Deputy's questions on the national minimum wage. Thus far, the Low Pay Commission's recommendations have been accepted by the Government, with the result that the national minimum wage increased from €8.65 to €9.90 per hour between January 2016 and January 2019. The legislation relating to the setting of the national minimum wage has been in place since 2000. I take the Deputies' comments on board. Since I became Minister, I have increased the capital and current funding for arts at a difficult time. That has to be acknowledged. We have to give more funding to the Arts Council and bring other measures such as the percent for art and social welfare schemes into the mix in policy formation. Artists have a difficult job to do and should be encouraged and supported in any way possible.


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