PRECARIOUS WORKERS BRIGADE

Nov 25

Here is PWB’s most recent photo-romance. Find out more by downloading the full strip from this link.

Here is PWB’s most recent photo-romance. Find out more by downloading the full strip from this link.

Oct 23

upcoming event: Future Interns 2013, Goldsmiths SU, 9 Nov

Future Interns 2013 is a day of awareness and activism around internships and precarious work, followed by an evening of Latin Music hosted by 3 cosas living wage campaign. The event will be an opportunity to hear about the amazing work going on to fight back against the culture of unpaid work. As well as bringing together speakers it will be an opportunity to meet other interns and take part in workshops. Ultimately it will be a platform for interns to shape their future working conditions.

Workshops from PWB and Ragpickers.

Speakers will include Mark Fisher and Federico Campagna, Dr Sophie Hope and Charlotte Gerada, who will be discussing her research into unpaid internships in the voluntary sector.

https://www.facebook.com/events/207746396073079/

Oct 16

OPEN MEETING - 13 November, 2013

Dear Precarious Workers Brigade supporters,

We would like to invite you to an open meeting on Wednesday 13 November, 7-9pm, Common House, Unit 5E, 5 Pundersons Gardens, Bethnal Green, E2 9QG.

Come and find out about our current campaigns, find out how you can get involved and get plotting and organising.

You might want to join one (or more) of our working groups:

Corporatisation of the Arts: Investigative action research into who controls our public arts institutions.  

Education: Revise, distribute and deliver an alternative curriculum that puts the politics into ‘employability’ and ‘professional practice’.

Working conditions: Different campaigns, such as writing letters to art institutions that advertise unpaid internships and follow-up with actions and interventions.

Solidarities: Make links and support fellow campaigners such as Latin American Workers Association, Anti-Raids Network, Boycott Workfare and cleaner’s campaigns.

Let us know if you can make it on 13 November or if you would like to join one of the working groups. 

PWB

Oct 03

So you want to be an artist? PWB presents at the Art Licks Weekend

Join us at Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre’s Artistic Skillshare ‘How did you do that?’ this weekend.

Here’s the full schedule of four days of great events - Skillshare details below.

PWB will presenting on Sunday, 6th October 2-4.

What are your hopes and fears, dreams and desires for the future? How does working creatively fit in with these?  This is a chance to share thoughts about working in the creative sector, how work is organised, what barriers might there be and how things might be done differently. Learn about working conditions while building solidarity with your peers. Join the Precarious Workers Brigade for a workshop targeted at those thinking about a career in the arts, age range 16+.

Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre is heading to Peckham and invites you to the 4th event in the ON YOUR MARKS season.

Through a combination of seminars, workshops and other hands-on activities, this program will explore subjects like: working conditions in the arts; realising ambitious projects; easy and effective ways to photograph your sculpture and other art forms; advice on personal/artist statements; and building your own website. Whether you’re thinking about a career in the arts but are unsure what it takes to be an artist or you’ve been practicing for a while and want to improve your art-world survival skills, this weekend of events has something for you.


The skillshare also features ‘The Sculpture Playhouse,’ a family-friendly activity where ‘the young at art’ can play and create. Age range 5 –10.


All events are FREE but for some sessions sign-up in advance is encouraged as spaces are limited.
For further details on these events and more, see the events pages and full Events Schedule on our website.

CLF will be running the basement café throughout the weekend, so take a break from touring the Artlicks Weekend and pop in for a tea or coffee.

4TH – 6TH OCTOBER 2013
THURSDAY + FRIDAY 6 – 9PM, SATURDAY + SUNDAY 11 – 6PM
BUSSEY BUILDING, 133 COPELAND ROAD, LONDON, SE15 4ST
(Google map)

Aug 15

Upcoming talks: 23rd + 30th August, Whitechapel Gallery

On the 23rd August we are giving a talk/facilitating a discussion at the Whitechapel Gallery. Please come and join us! 12.30pm - 1.30pm. (Entry is free)

http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/shop/product/category_id/22/product_id/1731?session_id=1376563841e514fde20971d6c7fb0709d7ad80335f

On the 30th August we are taking part in a panel discussion. 12.30pm - 1.30pm. Also free entry.

http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/shop/product/category_id/1/product_id/1732

Jul 16

PWB Photoromance Workshop
11-5pm Sunday July 28th. Open to all!

PWB Photoromance Workshop

11-5pm Sunday July 28th. Open to all!

Jun 28

Latest from Calvert 22…

Dear Precarious Workers Brigade,

Many thanks for your message.  We are aware of the points you have raised in your letter to Calvert 22 about volunteer placements.

We take this issue seriously and we are currently exploring ways we might make changes to our structure. Of necessity, this requires careful planning to deliver a change in model that’s sustainable in the long term. We will be responding with an update as soon as possible.

With regards

Calvert 22 Foundation

Jun 22

BARBICAN, CLEAN UP YOUR ACT - PAY YOUR INTERNS AND CLEANERS A LIVING WAGE!

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[video]

Jun 21

Academic Credits for Free Labour?

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As employers see that the game is nearly up for internships and free labour profiteering, they increasingly turn to the university as a place where they recruit students to work for formal credit. But aren’t students already paying huge fees for these courses? Does this mean we now pay to work for free?

PWB is part of a new International Coalition for Fair Internships, and we believe that: ‘academic credit is an unacceptable substitute for an adequate wage. The conferring of academic credit does not create automatic exemptions to workplace regulations. Most internships do not provide training similar to vocational or academic instruction. Instead, interns are regularly assigned work that would ordinarily be done by a paid employee. To the worker whose job is replaced by an employer who has learned to rely on the labor of unpaid interns, it does not matter that an academic institution deems the experience credit-worthy. Universities do not regulate labor markets.’

Can’t find your name on the list of gallery sponsors?

Can’t find your name on the list of gallery sponsors, even though you donated your time for free?

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Check out Ragpickers action https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ragpickers/122793117903488 and if you are an intern print yourself a teeshirt!

Jun 09

Follow up on Calvert22’s promise of changes…

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Calvert 22 advertisement June 9th, 2013

Dear Calvert22,

We were pleased to hear curator Lina Dzuverovic make an announcement in response to our Open Letter (recorded by The Ragpickers, http://ragpickers.tumblr.com/post/49505256939/well-done-precarious-workers-brigade-calvert22), in which she promised a further public announcement addressing the changes Calvert22 will be making.

 

We look forward to hearing in more detail what those changes will entail.

With best regards,

Precarious Workers Brigade

The Whitechapel Got Back to Us….

Is this enough??

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Dear Precarious Workers Brigade,

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Whitechapel Gallery regarding our volunteer placements.

The Gallery is committed to creating new learning opportunities and has made significant progress over the last four years in developing funded entry level routes into the sector. The annual number of volunteers has been halved over this period and we continue to work towards new ways of providing paid opportunities.

With the support of a range of partners including the Heritage Lottery Fund; the Creative Apprentice scheme; The Royal Opera House Creative Jobs Programme; and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Future Jobs Fund; since 2009 the Gallery has been able to pilot new ways of working and offer a broad range of funded work placements, as well as diversifying our workforce through partnerships with A New Direction and START.

Kind regards

Stephen Crampton-Hayward
Managing Director
Whitechapel Gallery

May 13

Hello Whitechapel Gallery, we notice that you have recently advertised unpaid internships

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Hello Whitechapel Gallery,

We notice that you have recently advertised unpaid internships in Design and Production, Publications, and Events under Job Vacancies on your website. In addition, we notice volunteers are currently being recruited to train and work as therapists on the forthcoming ‘Spirit of Utopia’ exhibition. We salute you for taking the time and effort to mentor and train people wanting to work in the arts sector particularly through your paid HLF Traineeships and apprenticeships.

We understand the pressures publicly funded, non-profit arts organisations such as yours are under. However, we are concerned that by not making these internship and volunteer positions paid, only those who can afford to work for free will be able to benefit from these schemes. As internships are becoming more prevalent than graduate jobs, those who are unable to take up these unpaid ‘opportunities’ are less likely to enter the sector. While we recognise that you have put in place time limits, fair advertising, expenses and some ‘in kind’ recompense for this work, such positions nevertheless seem unfair and exclusionary. The positions require applicants who are already skilled in design software, copyright negotiation, marketing, invoicing, and so on. We don’t understand why this work would not be paid?

Arts Council guidelines on Internships in the Arts make a clear distinction between internships and volunteering. Volunteers are not entitled to payment or benefits in kind, and are not classified as workers as there are no contractual obligations (such as designated working times) between the volunteer and the arts organisation. The guidelines stress that the majority of interns are classified as workers and should be paid the National Minimum Wage. We know that it is possible for many arts organisations to avoid legal problems with National Minimum Wage legislation through using the exemption designed for charity volunteers. Surely, however, such weak legal frameworks for our sector do not act as our only ethical guide on such matters?

Like the Whitechapel exhibition the ‘Spirit of Utopia’, we are excited by envisaging other economies, prototyping and imagining another world. Pointing out problems of free labour and trying to do something about it, of course feels rather drab and everyday in comparison. Yet, for us, these two must be connected. The disconnect we live with today reminds us of the oft-quoted Fred Jameson meme, that sometimes it seems easier for us to imagine the end of the world, than doing anything to bring about the end of capitalism. Similiarly, it seems easier for us in the art world to imagine utopias, than figure out how to pay interns and volunteers minimum wage.

There is lots of information out there that might help you develop another approach to working with interns. Here are a few links:

Art Council England’s guidelines Internships in the Arts:

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/internships-arts
Intern Aware: http://www.internaware.org/about/why-unpaid-internships-are-wrong/
Artquest’s Intern Culture report: http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/intern_culture

The Carrotworkers’ Collective’s Counter Guide to Free Labour in the Arts: http://carrotworkers.wordpress.com/counter-internship-guide/

We would like to flag this up and ask the gallery to consider the ethics of offering unpaid internships and volunteer placements in your organisation.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.

From

Precarious Workers Brigade

Apr 30

Open Letter to Calvert22 from Precarious Workers Brigade

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Dear Calvert22,

We notice that you have recently advertised an unpaid gallery volunteer placement for your forthcoming exhibition “…how is it towards the east?”

Whilst we acknowledge that you are aiming to take the time and effort to train young people who want to work in the arts, we are concerned that the tasks described in your volunteer placement sound very much like work that should be paid: ‘invigilating the exhibition’, ‘assisting with Front of House duties’ and ‘working in the Calvert Café’, as well as ‘the option to help out with our diverse talks and events programme’. We are curious as to why this work is not paid? We know that it is possible for arts organisations to avoid legal problems with volunteer positions through using the exemption to the National Minimum Wage legislation designed for charities. We would hope however, that such weak legal frameworks for our sector do not act as our only ethical guide on such matters.

We are concerned that by not paying people to carry out these jobs, only those who can afford to work for free will be able to benefit from your placement scheme: such placements contribute to producing a cultural sector in London that is increasingly reserved for the privileged. Surely such exclusionary employment practices are in direct contradiction of your constitution as a charity, and to the Foundation’s stated mission of connecting the gallery to histories of political radicalism and activism in the local area of East End? We also note that the exhibition ‘examines modes of self-organisation’ focusing on the histories of those on the left who have struggled for worker’s rights, specifically on the 1st May 1886, when they called for 8-hour working day – a date which coincides with the opening of the exhibition. We find that the use of unpaid labour in this context to be particularly paradoxical.

Furthermore, we note from your website, Calvert 22’s partnership with VTB Capital.  Whilst we find there to be an incredible contradiction between your partnership with the investment banking sector, and the stated aims of artistic programmes such as the “…how is it towards the east?” we would at least hope that these kinds of partnerships would ensure that everyone who works on the programme is paid at least a Minimum Wage.

We raise these issues with you, not to single out Calvert 22 for such practices, but as our friends at Artleaks have succinctly expressed, to draw attention to concrete situations that:

”[…] underscore the precarious condition of cultural workers, and the necessity for sustained protest against the appropriation of politically engaged art, culture and theory by institutions embedded in a tight mesh of capital and power.’

Like Artleaks, we are concerned that:

“By co-opting cultural activity, these sponsors obtain social credibility, which they then proceed to mis-use: by refusing decent conditions for cultural workers through oppressive measures – the same workers whose labor makes their subsistence possible.” 

The normalisation of practices of free labour through volunteer positions such as this, contributes to a situation where it is acceptable to abstractly question the role of sponsorship and free labour on panel discussions, but unacceptable to concretely act against them. Volunteers, speakers and artists are often subtly frozen out of the sector if they challenge this non-payment or under-payment, and thus feel coerced to prop up the system further.

We have been organising around issues of free labour and precarity in the arts and culture for several years, analysing corporate cynicism and the increasingly intense contradictions in our sector. In this climate of enforced austerity, brought about by investment banks, we encounter over and over again a culture of resignation and silence in art schools and art institutions. Do programmes such as “…how is it towards the east?” simply perpetuate the damaging paradox of providing a subject of discussion that is clearly not to be acted upon? Do they not in effect, simply add to this silencing? We wonder what Calvert 22 want to achieve in this exhibition and programme, what the motivations of the foundation are? We wonder what position the foundation wants to take in relation to its own workers, its own work culture and the community in which it is situated? 

There are many guidelines available today that might help you develop a new and more equitable approach to work. Please see the links below: 

Art Council England’s guidelines Internships in the Arts: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/internships-arts

Counter Guide to Free Labour in the Arts: http://carrotworkers.wordpress.com/counter-internship-guide/

Intern Aware: http://www.internaware.org/about/why-unpaid-internships-are-wrong/

Artquest’s Intern Culture report: http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/intern_culture

Interns: Volunteer or Employee? volunteernow.co.uk/news/item/61

We would like to ask the foundation to consider the ethics of offering unpaid volunteer placements in your organisation, and to hear your response to this open letter.

With best regards,


Precarious Workers Brigade

precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com