PRECARIOUS WORKERS BRIGADE

Feb 26

The Serpentine Gallery gets rid of unpaid internships (but not volunteering…) after Future Interns and PWB protest (see posts below)

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Jan 20

CORPORATISATION OF ARTS open meeting

CORPORATISATION OF ARTS (Precarious Workers Brigade) 

Open Meeting, 7 - 9pm

Wednesday 29th January 2014.

The Common House, Unit 5E, 5 Pundersons Gardens, London E2 9QG

http://www.commonhouse.org.uk/about-2/

Join us for the first open meeting in this year to open up the question of the increasing corporatisation of arts. It has become a common practice for publicly funded galleries to attract private and corporate sponsors for their exhibition and education programmes (e.g. Louis Vuitton at the Whitechapel while Arts Council England (ACE) expects its National Portfolio organisations to secure income from private benefactors, corporate sponsors and philanthropists as a proof of their sustainability. Choosing its advisor from one of the largest global financial communications groups, no wonder that DCMS and subsequently ACE, are increasing pressure for the cultural sector to jump corporate hoops.

With further cuts to the public spending on the arts, the pressure for arts organisations to seek funding from large corporations and the rich individuals, will only increase. Whilst there might be sparkly diamonds on the top of the food chain, how does this increased pressure translate on the ground, for artists, for arts organisations who do not have privileged access of trendy locations and cafes and finally for all those cultural workers who are invigilating on a less than minimum wage or interns who are not paid at all?

We will start the evening by looking at methods of investigative research, specifically How to do investigative research? by Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, download here: http://bookleteer.com/publication.html?id=930).

Other texts of reference ‘Which side is art on?’ by Dean Kenning and Margareta Kern (https://www.academia.edu/4393319/Which_Side_is_Art_On), Platform ‘Take the money and run? Some positions on ethics, business sponsorship and making art.’ (http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/take-the-money-and-run-some-positions-on-ethics-business-sponsorship-and-making-art/), The Surge to Merge Culture with the Economy by Anthony Davies http://www.copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk/AD01.html

Please bring texts, information, data, questions to share and disseminate.

The evening is facilitated by PWB working group ‘corporatisation of arts’, you are welcome to join the working group to continue building on the meetings and investigations…

Dec 17

Serpentine charity boss Julia Peyton-Jones took 60 per cent pay rise (The Independent, 16 Dec 13)

On Monday the Independent reports on David Lee’s revelation of Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones’s 60% pay rise. Enough said.

The Future Interns and PWB will be keeping a close eye on the developments to make sure that The Serpentine’s admission of being in the wrong about their internship programme is followed up by a concrete change in policy!

Meanwhile, The Guardian picks up on our letter and action:

Intern protest: ‘All I want for Christmas is pay’ (The Guardian, 16 Dec) 

Students dressed as Father Christmas demonstrate against unpaid work at a London art gallery
Visitors to the Serpentine Gallery in London were met by an unusual sight at the weekend: students and graduates dressed as Father Christmas, protesting against a gallery advert for unpaid work.

The group of white-bearded protesters held a banner that read: “All we want for xmas is pay.” They handed out scrolls to members of the public, which contained the original advertisement, plus the protesters’ comments about why they felt the role should be paid. One said: “If you contribute to the running of an organisation, you are entitled to national minimum wage.”

Following the protest, the Serpentine Gallery have admitted it is in the wrong, saying: “The points you make are valid and we have listened to your protest. We take our responsibility as employers very seriously, and this advertisement is not in line with our current terms on volunteer placements.”

Read More

Dec 16

Serpentine Gallery’s response to PWB letter and FI action (before and after)

pre-protest response:

Date:  Fri, 13 Dec 2013 13:38:54 +0000 [12/13/13 13:38:54 UTC]

From:  Robertta Marques HR Assistant <hrassistant@serpentinegalleries.org>

To:  Precarious Workers Brigade <precariousworkersbrigade@aktivix.org>, Gwen Barry <gwenb@serpentinegalleries.org>, jpj@serpentinegallery.org <jpj@serpentinegallery.org>, Hans Ulrich Obrist <huo@serpentinegalleries.org>, Rose Dempsey <RoseD@serpentinegalleries.org>

Subject:  RE: Unpaid Volunteer Positions Dear Precarious Workers Brigade,

Thank you for your email. The Serpentine is a charitable arts organization showcasing arts for everyone free of charge. All volunteers are reimbursed travel and food expenses, volunteer roles require much less commitment than an internship and are not core roles that we would otherwise have in the organisation. Often these roles give people the experience they require as part of their personal development. We often take volunteers without previous experience and skills are presented merely as suggestions to candidates. Alongside open calls, we have been also working closely with Access (http://access-workplacements.org/about-us/) as another way to increase diversity and offer meaningful experiences.

We do not require that those applying for any volunteer roles work 5 days a week it’s an option to work up to 5 days a week , indeed many of the volunteers we have work much less - depending on their study/commitments. The volunteers commitment days are flexible and the schedule will be determined according to volunteers availability. Some Gallery Assistants (undertaking paid roles working  in the visitor services team) have taken the opportunity to gain experience within different departments by volunteering on an ad hoc basis to enable them to make decisions about the direction of their future careers. We are open minded about peoples propositions and would look at ways of accommodating any requests - to keep access to these opportunities as open as possible.

As HR Assistant I started at the organization as a volunteer and I am now employed here - following my application for a role.  We currently have many employees that started that way. I am glad to answer any other question you might have.

Kind regards,
Robertta

Robertta Marques
HR Assistant
Serpentine Gallery
Direct: 020 7298 7564
Email: roberttam@serpentinegallery.org

——

post-protest response:

Date:  Mon, 16 Dec 2013 10:57:53 -0000 [10:57:53 UTC]

From:  Rose Dempsey <RoseD@serpentinegalleries.org>

To:  Precarious Workers Brigade <precariousworkersbrigade@aktivix.org>

Cc:  Julia Peyton-Jones <JuliaP@serpentinegalleries.org>, Gwen Barry <gwenb@serpentinegalleries.org>, Hans Ulrich Obrist <huo@serpentinegalleries.org>, Rose Dempsey <RoseD@serpentinegalleries.org>

Subject:  RE: Unpaid Volunteer Positions Dear Precarious Workers Brigade,

Thank you for bringing this advertisement to our attention.

The points you make in your letter to us are valid and we have listened to your protest.

We take our responsibility as employers very seriously and this advertisement is not in line with our current terms on Volunteer placements.

We will be addressing the issues you raise immediately.

Yours sincerely,
Rose Dempsey

——

our response to the emails:

Date:  Wed, 18 Dec 2013 22:27:31 +0000 [12/18/13 22:27:31 UTC]

From:  Precarious Workers Brigade <precariousworkersbrigade@aktivix.org>

To:  Rose Dempsey <RoseD@serpentinegalleries.org>

Cc:  Julia Peyton-Jones <JuliaP@serpentinegalleries.org>, Gwen Barry <gwenb@serpentinegalleries.org>, Hans Ulrich Obrist <huo@serpentinegalleries.org>

Subject:  RE: Unpaid Volunteer Positions Dear Rose Dempsey,

Thank you for your quick response.

We welcome your acknowledgement that the job you advertised was “not in line” with your employment terms.
We look forward to seeing what your next step is- we hope it will mean a concrete change in policy.
Please let us know the decisions you come to and as mentioned in our earlier email, there’s lots of information out there that might help you develop a new and more equitable approach to working with those who wish to develop a career in the sector. Here are a few links:

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

The Carrotworkers’ Collective’s 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

And: Precarious Workers Brigade precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com

We look forward to your response.

Yours truly,
PWB

Dec 14

Dear Serpentine Gallery: ALL WE WANT FOR XMAS IS PAY!

Today Future Interns descended on the Serpentine Gallery in an action following up from our co-signed letter to the gallery addressing its ‘volunteer’ programme (see previous post).

Help keep up the pressure on The Serpentine by sending an email with your concerns about their use of unpaid labour!

Gwen Barry, Head of Human Resources: Gwenb@serpentinegallery.org

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Gallery and Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes: juliap@serpentinegallery.org

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects: huo@serpentinegallery.org

Rose Dempsey, Head of Communications: Rosed@serpentinegallery.org

Jochen Volz, Head of Programmes: jochenv@serpentinegallery.org

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Who would have thought that the campaign would take off like that? ;)

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Dec 13

Dear Serpentine Management, we have recently been made aware that you are advertising 3 month volunteer placements…

From: Precarious Workers Brigade <precariousworkersbrigade@aktivix.org>
Date: 13 December 2013 12:55:34 GMT
To: Gwenb@serpentinegallery.org, jpj@serpentinegallery.org, huo@serpentinegallery.org, Rosed@serpentinegallery.org
Subject: Unpaid Volunteer Positions


Dear Serpentine Management,

We have recently been made aware that you are advertising 3 month volunteer placements at the Serpentine in the Co-Director’s Office (5 days a week), in the Public Programmes Department (2 days a week) and in the Individual Giving team (3 days a week).

We understand the pressures publicly funded, non-profit arts organisations are under and we salute you for taking the time and effort to mentor and train people wanting to work in the arts sector.

However, we are concerned that by not paying people, only those who can afford to work for free will be able to benefit from volunteering at the Serpentine, gain experience in these areas of work and therefore pursue a career in the sector.

Your adverts request individuals who are “reliable, full of initiative and who can demonstrate a keen interest in being involved in this exciting programme.” They also suggest a certain skill level, such as “Previous experience with artists, or in an arts organisations, or in adult learning programmes desirable.”  (Public Programme Volunteer placement).

It is clear that the job requires previous experience and some expertise in the area. While as a charity it is not a legal necessity that you pay what are described as ‘volunteers’ many in the sector have acknowledged the exploitative implications of taking advantage of this legal loophole and not paying young workers who clearly fulfill necessary, vital and in many cases, formerly paid positions within organisations. We know that interns at the Serpentine Gallery put in many hours of work and take on great responsibilities. We know that they also gain great experiences. However allowing only those who can afford to work without compensation to gain such experiences has grave implications for  a sector already often accused of elitism and at risk of losing the moderate movements towards diversity in the sector.

We are aware that the Serpentine is an educational charity and therefore would suggest that creating fair, equitable and compensated learning activities would be in keeping with this mandate. Demonstrating unfair employment practices does in fact contradicts your constitution as an educational arts charity.

Along with others, our groups - who include past, current and future interns -  have been campaigning for fair pay for interns in the arts sector for many years. As a result many arts institutions - including those much smaller and poorer than the Serpentine - have created policies against unpaid internships.

We strongly encourage the Serpentine to adopt such a policy. Over the coming months we will be engaging in a series of targeted actions at yours and other institutions to encourage the creation of such a policy. We will be examining and exposing pay inequities to the public to ensure that these issues are publicised and addressed. We welcome knowledge of any changes undertaken at your institution to create fairer working and compensation practices for interns.

There’s lots of information out there that might help you develop a new and more equitable approach to working with those who wish to develop a career in the sector. Here are a few links:

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

The Carrotworkers’ Collective’s Counter Guide to Free Labour in the Arts&#8232;: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

And: Precarious Workers Brigade precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com

We look forward to your response.


Yours truly,

Precarious Workers Brigade
Future Interns

#payinterns #futureinterns

Dec 10

Christmas-themed flashmob coming up - join in!

Our friends the Future Interns are doing a christmas-themed flashmob at a major London gallery that has just (again) advertised an unpaid internship. As we know strength and fun is in numbers, so if you’re free on Saturday join in! It’ll all be straightforward and fun!

Meet up: Saturday, 14 Dec, Goldsmiths College (in New Cross, London) in front of the Library at 1pm. If you can, dress up in xmas costume but they will have spare stuff also. More updates here: https://www.facebook.com/futureinterns

Ho ho ho -

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Nov 25

Here is PWB&#8217;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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