Thursday, April 12, 2007

Status of the Artist - Another Step Forward

SAA Bulletin - April 2007

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“We could be big winners if it is done right” Brian Topp, ACTRA

The readers of SAA’s Bulletin will know amendments to the Status of the Artist Act were presented November 30th (1) and referred to the Legislative Standing Committee on Human Services for public review. Hearings were held at the end of February. Individuals and organizations, provincial and national comprising of both artists and engagers, submitted briefs to the Committee. “In camera “ comments were also solicited. There were over twenty submissions. (2)

At the hearings comments focused on the central questions put to the Committee by CYR Minister Hagel. These concerned collective bargaining for artists, definition of professional artist and engager, secure contracts for artists, and ensuring Crown adherence to the legislation.

Minister Hagel declared his motivation in pursuing Status legislation is the inequity artists face. “$40 % of these artists have a post secondary credential … twice the average of Saskatchewan workers in general, … but only half the income. Hagel stated, “supporting artists is an important part of a bright future for Saskatchewan and …is key to shaping this to be an place attractive for young people to build their futures.” (Hansard Dec 18/06)

The majority of submissions to the Committee coincided with SAA’s stated position. The submissions were almost unanimous (one dissent) in endorsing the necessity of Status legislation and action. However, there were some caveats and differences.

The definition of professional artist was endorsed as proposed in the Amendment Bill but with suggestions for improvement. The definition closely follows the Canadian Artists Code proposals.

Ensuring artists have contracts is a major amendment. “No engager shall procure goods or services from an artist without having entered into a written contract with that artist.” The general content of a contract will be prescribed in the regulations to the Act. While the provision for contracts was endorsed, SAA is concerned with the critical question of how to enforce this provision.

Collective bargaining issues were the main focus of most submissions. First nations artist, Brian Brass said he hoped “an effective collective bargaining agreement shall promote, preserve and protect the rights, privileges and freedoms of all artists, Canadian, and First Nations within Saskatchewan.”

Other comments in the hearings expressed the frustrations of artists. For the Writers’ Union Maggie Siggins wanted to know “if artists were expected to be businessmen, did that mean all businessmen had to be artists?” Guy Vanderhaeghe commented that he was speaking “not necessarily on my behalf, but …on behalf of younger artists. There is no silver bullet here. This is not going to solve all the problems … a small step, it will help artists a little bit. Artists (are) kind of like farmers. We work because we love it, we think it is important but we end up subsidizing what we want to do with outside work.”

There was concurrence that National agreements should be protected, therefore sector bargaining was a necessity, agreements should be based at minimum rates, and adjudication should be through the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. One dissenting view urged the use of CAPPRT on the grounds that the federal tribunal’s knowledge of the arts sector was superior.

Concerns were raised by film industry producers, who urged existing successful industry relations should not be interfered with under any new terms of the Status Act. Other concerns related to the need to ensure the Act not limit access for small communities to artists and programming. The status of amateur artists and development of emerging artists should be accounted for within the application of the Status Act.

A critical issue for photographers, and other artists, is the procurement policy of the Saskatchewan government. The Photographers Association asserted that the present policy was already in violation of the spirit of the Status Act. They expressed hope that the amendments would rectify this. Remaining issues lie in trying to alter contradictions in the application of the Status Act and movement to protect artists’ organizations from legal action under the federal Competition Act.

The next step for the Standing Committee will be to report to the Legislative Assembly. The task then is for the government to determine the final amendments to the Status Act. The Legislation will be returned to the Assembly for debate prior to close of the spring session.

It was observed Saskatchewan would be under “watch” by other provinces. In March Ontario introduced a Status Act that is an “enabling” piece of legislation, the generalized “we like artists” message. Hopefully more of substance will be forthcoming. Newfoundland’s major arts policy (issued last year) committed the province to Status legislation and the government is in process of establishing an advisory Status Committee.

As one of the Saskatchewan briefs organizations stated “after all the task forces and reports the time is long overdue for artists and engagers to have their own labour relations code consistent with the uniqueness of the sector.”

However, stay tuned.


For more information see SAA at www.artsalliance.sk.ca .

1. Bill #40 – www.legassembly.sk.ca/bills/PDFs/bill-40.pdf.

2. Legislative Assembly Hansard for Feb 26- 28 carries the verbal submission interviews and the text is publicly available at www.legassembly.sk.ca/hansard

Submissions from: CAPPRT (Federal Tribunal), SCC, SAA, CFTPA, Regina Symphony Players, Sask. Labour Relations Board, Am. Federation of Musicians, Writers Union of Canada (TWUC), SFL, CAEA, GSU, Sask. Publishers Group, Sask. Professional Photographers Assoc./CAPIC. ACTRA, CARFAC, Mackenzie Gallery, OSAC, Globe Theatre, Sask. Arts Board, SaskCulture, SCES, First nations media artist Brian Brass, visual artist C. Farrero.