Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Amendments to the Saskatchewan Status of the Artist Act Proposed

SAA Bulletin - January 2007

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This Bulletin will provide information to artists and arts organizations about status of the artist and the proposed amendments to the Saskatchewan Status of the Artist Act. Please distribute this information widely. SAA is interested in your response to the amendments and the SAA response. You may send your comments by email. Other information on status of the artist is available on the advocacy page of the SAA website.
In 2001, Saskatchewan Arts Alliance launched a campaign to place status of the artist back on the political agenda. The result was a vigorous letter-writing campaign from Saskatchewan artists resulting in the 2002 Status Act. Since then, SAA has continued to be a major proponent of status of the artist measures.

On November 30th, 2006 Glenn Hagel, Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation (CYR), introduced legislation to amend the Status of the Artist Act. The proposed amendments have been referred to the all party Standing Committee on Human Services. The Committee will hold public hearings February 26, 27, 28 and, if warranted, March 1, 2007. The notice of the hearings will be advertised in early January with Feb. 7 the deadline for applications to be heard. This is an important opportunity for the arts community to have input. The SAA encourages the arts community to respond. The Status Act will influence the future of how artists are treated in the province. The Act may not be opened again for some time.

What Does the Current Status of the Artist Act Do?
Proclaimed in June 2002, the Saskatchewan Status Act recognizes the importance of artists to society and the need to provide equitable treatment in economic and social benefits. Under the Act, the government undertook, “as far as it considers it reasonable and appropriate to do so, to do the following:
  1. to promote and protect the status of the artist by considering artistic work, including innovation and research, as a public good and service to the community;
  2. to promote within government the working conditions of artists;
  3. to respect, honour and in good faith abide by scale agreements of relevant artists’ associations representing the interests of artists engaged by the government;
  4. to respect, honour and in good faith abide by protocols respecting working conditions that have been established by relevant artists’ associations representing the interests of artists engaged by the government.” (Status of the Artist Act, 2002, Article 6)

A good first step, but more substance was needed to realize the benefits envisioned by artists in their 1993 report to government on status of the artist. So, the government appointed a new Minister’s Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist (MACSA) to advise on strategies and priorities for development of status measures. The MACSA Final Report was released in summer 2006. Minister Hagel has affirmed the government is committed to the Report proposals, both on policy and legislative changes. Minister Hagel made the point that improving artists’ incomes is a critical issue for him.

The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance supports most of the MACSA recommendations but has questions about others. For a review of SAA’s response see Re: Final Report of Minister’s Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist.

What’s in the Amendments?
  • an extensive new definition of professional artist
  • a definition of engager
  • inclusion of the “Crown” under the Act (meaning commitment of the government to the provisions of the Act)
  • requirement for written contracts for artists, the elements of contracts to be prescribed in regulations.


In addition to the matters in the proposed Amendment Act, the Standing Committee was asked to consider and consult on the matter of labour relations, most particularly questions on collective bargaining for artists such as 1) the processes and circumstances for collective bargaining, 2) handling of national collective agreements already in place, and 3) the how and who of adjudication of disputes. The Amendments can be found at www.legassembly.sk.ca/bills/PDFs/bill-40.pdf.

Why Collective Bargaining? What’s at Issue?
The Minister of CYR has asked the Standing Committee to advise the government on how collective bargaining for professional artists can be implemented at the provincial level. Attempts to secure status of the artist collective rights reach back to the 1980 UNESCO resolutions. The Saskatchewan government is seeking to find the best way of providing these rights to professional artists who are engaged to undertake work.

Most collective agreements in the arts sector already occur voluntarily, mostly in disciplines such as theatre, media and music. Visual and literary artists have collectively organized, and established guidelines for fees and contracts which engagers are persuaded to observe. Engagers or producer associations and artist associations come together and agree on minimum pay and conditions (although artists have the ability to negotiate above minimum terms). Agreements have mostly been negotiated nationally by art form or sector – artists and producers/engagers have found that sector agreements work most efficiently. The Federal Status Act acknowledges this and provides for mechanisms to meet the needs of artists and engagers.

Benefits of collective bargaining for both artists and engagers are simple: contracts are clear, costs are known, relations are regulated, and rights are protected. Those in the business get together to arrive at an agreement, and make the rules and process work. Historically, people in the sector work cooperatively, given the nature of the creative process, so collective bargaining in the sector reflects this mutual purpose.

So Why Do We Need Provincial Legislation?
Labour is a provincial issue. The Federal Status Act applies only to the federal jurisdiction. Right now in Canada, artist unions could face challenges under the Competition Act.

Collective rights need to be addressed through legally recognized agreements negotiated between artists’ organizations and producers/engagers. Both have security in this legal position and a means to resolve problems. Further, legislation should protect artists’ self-employed taxation status.

What is the SAA Saying?
Needs differ for artists in the various disciplines. The same solutions do not fit all. Performing artists have concerns for rights to fair work hours, conditions of work, health and safety, underage performers’ protection. Visual and literary artists have concerns for contracting, copyright and use. Provincial legislation should account for these differing needs. All artists can gain from establishing legal collective rights providing for fair minimum payment, written contracts with fair terms covering copyright, use and residual rights, developing pension and health insurance benefits, and achieving payment security.

SAA endorses the Amendment Act proposals for the expanded definition of professional artist and engager, the assurance artists will be contracted, and that the Crown is bound by this commitment. These are all very positive proposals for the arts sector.

With respect to collective bargaining, SAA believes that this is a small but important step forward for artists to gain recognition of the value of their work. But it is only one step, and not all artists may wish to or be able to take advantage of collective bargaining rights. However the government has placed collective bargaining options before us and a response is needed.

Organizing collectively paves the way for artists to enjoy other benefits. Those artist associations that already have collective bargaining should enjoy collective rights legally. Other artist associations whose membership tends to work as individual entrepreneurs may not find immediate use for provincial collective bargaining rights. Therefore, SAA is encouraging government to put into legislation the ability for organizations to enter into collective agreements legally, recognizing collective bargaining is a choice that artists will make. Recommendations for legislation must be effective and address the varying needs of the arts disciplines.

SAA urges the following three issues must be addressed:
  • Protection of the national collective agreements already in place must be factored into the legislation.
  • Consistent with both the Québec and Federal Status legislation, sector bargaining should be an established principle. Saskatchewan legislation should coincide with the Federal Act. This parallel process will ensure that Saskatchewan ‘s legislation does not become irrelevant to national arts organizations.
  • To adjudicate and administer the legislation a body has to be designated, MACSA’s recommendation is for a separate commission to be formed. SAA believes a more appropriate option is to use the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board both for efficiency of application and budget factors. The Board is in place, “can do the job” and has indicated its ability to adapt processes to the needs of the arts sector. Expenditure on establishing a new commission might well be extracted from arts funding unnecessarily.


A further issue of importance is removal of the phrase that appears in the present Status Act “as far as it considers it reasonable and appropriate to do so” (Article 6). The government commits to ensuring artists are fairly paid by the terms of existing agreements or protocols but this phrase allows the government to ignore such rates in circumstances that it does not find reasonable and appropriate. This is a question of good faith in honouring established conditions and payments.

What Can I Do?
First, let us ensure the government hears our voice. Artists and arts organizations should consider:


Also, not to be forgotten, there are other priorities for Status measures and programs. It is necessary to continue to advocate for benefits, taxation reform, protection, economic development, funding and most of all, recognition of the value of the arts and artists in our communities and to our province.