Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 23 November 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Sexual Harassment in the Arts and Culture Sector: Discussion
I welcome the witnesses and thank them for attending. We are here to discuss the issue of alleged sexual harassment in the arts and culture sector, with a particular focus on policies, provisions, structures and procedures that can be put in place to address the issue. Cuirim fáilte roimh Ms Katherine Licken, Secretary General of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Feargal Ó Coigligh, Uasal, culture division, and Mr. Conor Falvey, corporate division; from the Arts Council Ms Orlaith McBride, Ms Sheila Pratschke and Mr. Martin O'Sullivan; and from Equity Ireland, Mr. Pádraig Murray, Ms Ann Russell and Ms Karan O'Loughlin, full-time organiser. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as teacht anseo inniu.
Before we begin, I will read out directions as to how witnesses and members should approach the way in which they address today's topic. This is particularly important given the seriousness of the issues we are to discuss, so I ask witnesses and members to stick very rigidly to it. Before I ask them to address the committee, I draw to the witnesses' attention the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I also advise witnesses that their opening statements and any other documents they have submitted to the committee may be published on the committee website after this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I now ask Ms Katherine Licken to make her presentation.
Ms Katherine Licken:
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an gcomhchoiste as cuireadh a thabhairt dúinn a bheith anseo inniu. My name is Katherine Licken and I am Secretary General of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I am accompanied by Feargal Ó Coigligh, assistant secretary, culture division, and Conor Falvey, assistant secretary, corporate division. I thank the joint committee for inviting us to discuss sexual harassment in the arts and culture sector, with a focus on the policies, provisions, structures and procedures in place and required to address this issue.
In recent times there have been a number of allegations and reports about sexual harassment in the workplace relating to the arts community. These issues are undoubtedly not confined to this sector. However, since they have been raised in this sector, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has announced a number of actions that she can take regarding the bodies reporting to the Department and in respect of the wider arts and culture sector. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect, dignity, fairness and equality in the workplace. This principle is enshrined in employment legislation, particularly the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
I would like to set out the context for the actions the Minister has taken. First, it is a matter for the boards and directors or CEOs of the bodies funded by the Department, including those bodies directly under its remit, to ensure that, as employers, they are compliant with all aspects of employee rights legislation, including those aspects relating to sexual harassment in the workplace. All boards have a duty to ensure that their bodies comply with statutory requirements and that their staff can work in a safe and respectful environment. In addition, I would like to clarify that the relevant legislation regarding sexual harassment is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality and that compliance with the law in this area, and indeed across a broad spectrum, is a matter for individual boards and directors.
Notwithstanding this, the Minister has taken a leadership role, within appropriate parameters, in order to shine a light on the issues and underline the importance of creating a culture of respect for the spirit as well as the letter of the law within the sector. Regarding those non-public bodies funded by the Department or the Arts Council, and the wider arts and cultural sector, the Minister has been working closely with both the Arts Council, representatives of which are here today, and the theatre sector to bring forward innovative ideas to address the issue of sexual harassment. On Friday, 10 November, she formally invited the group of eight leaders from Irish theatre organisations who recently co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre in Ireland to meet her and the Arts Council. The meeting which took place last Thursday focused on how the theatre sector in particular could come together to discuss the issues which have arisen. The Minister agreed to assist with any practical arrangements in this regard. Follow-up engagements continue, and a further announcement will be made in due course. Deputy Humphreys also identified a number of actions that she can take as Minister in respect of the bodies reporting to her Department. The intention is to help boards fulfil their functions more effectively and to support them in ensuring that policies on equality and respect in the workforce operate effectively and in line with best practice.
The actions now being taken are as follows. First, the Department is arranging separate dedicated governance workshops for the board members and the senior management of bodies directly reporting to the Department. These workshops will focus on governance in general, with a particular focus on the role of the board, the board's relationship with the executive and their respective legal responsibilities.
There will be a particular emphasis on issues relating to bullying, abuse of power and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Second, the Department is working on a collaborative basis with the Arts Council to make similar training available to other cultural organisations and arts centres around the country. It is intended to deliver this at a series of regional information days. The representative of the Arts Council will speak on this item also today. The Department has also highlighted to the bodies reporting to the Department the nature of their legal obligations by writing to them to seek assurances on their compliance with obligations under employment legislation. The legislation in question includes the Employment Equality Acts, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act and the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice) (Harassment) Order 2012. While all State bodies are currently required to give such assurances in their annual reports and accounts, the Department is seeking an additional direct assurance to reinforce the importance of these obligations and to re-affirm the Department's expectations of State boards. Letters have issued to all bodies under the aegis of the Department and the Department looks forward to the response from each body.
Finally, the Department is accelerating a planned review of compliance by bodies reporting to the Department with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. The code was updated in 2016 and it is timely to review compliance now. A similar review was carried out in 2014 under the previous code.
While it is not appropriate for the Minister to become involved in, or to comment on, individual cases, the measures agreed in recent weeks aim to support the sector in contributing to the further enhancement of existing governance structures and bodies reporting to the Department. These combined initiatives aim to highlight the issues in the sector and beyond and to give a clear message that compliance with the law and a culture of dignity and respect are expected.
I look forward to the debate.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
I am joined by the chair of the Arts Council, Sheila Pratschke, and Martin O'Sullivan, finance director and company secretary of the Arts Council. We thank the committee for the opportunity to make a presentation this afternoon.
The last few weeks have not been easy for those who work in the arts. The actions of a number of women have drawn attention to sexism and bullying specifically in the theatre sector. The stories told in recent weeks have shocked us all. However, shock is transient and we must go beyond shock. We must use recent revelations as a catalyst for change. As the development agency for the arts in Ireland, the Arts Council takes the lead in supporting and embedding change across the sector. Following the recent revelations at the Gate Theatre and the statement issued by the seven theatre organisations on respect and dignity in the workplace, the Arts Council met with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. We discussed a joint approach to support the sector. We must ensure that arts organisations have processes and procedures in place to protect those working in the sector. Those processes and procedures must work for an individual whether he or she is a permanent employees or a freelance practitioner.
As part of the Arts Council's current terms and conditions of financial assistance, organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding must confirm they comply with all laws applicable to them and, in particular, that they fulfil their statutory obligations. This includes all obligations under employment law, statutes, regulations and Revenue Commissioners requirements. All employers are obliged under the provisions of Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011 to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace. It is also recognised that bullying in the workplace can impact on the health, safety and welfare of staff and, under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers have a duty to prevent any improper conduct or behaviour which is likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk. This obliges senior management and line managers to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to ensure a work environment free of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. This includes developing an anti-bullying policy and dealing with established complaints of bullying in the workplace. Employers are required to deal with complaints as a priority issue.
The Health and Safety Authority and the Labour Relations Commission have also produced codes of practice on dealing with bullying in the workplace. Two points should be made in this regard. The first is that the Arts Council is not a regulatory agency. The second is that, while procedures and obligations exist and have existed for more than a decade, the indications are that they were, in Hamlet's words, "more honoured in the breach than the observance". In other words, they existed and were in place, but they did not inform the day-to-day thinking and behaviour of everybody in management in the sector. I wish to make it clear that the Arts Council will not and should not talk about allegations. Everybody is entitled to due process. I am referring to admissions that establish a gaping lacuna between obligations and actions, a gaping lacuna between the law and statutory obligations laid down and the subjective interpretation of what was acceptable behaviour.
We must go further to help organisations to provide their employees with the protection to which they are entitled. I will outline the actions currently being undertaken by the Arts Council to support arts organisations. We are engaging a human resources, HR, expert to develop a series of resources and templates in areas such as harassment and bullying in the workplace to provide best practice responses to organisations across the sector. These will be made available to all organisations and will be supplemented with direct support via a series of workshops aimed at helping organisations to develop their policies and procedures in this regard.
Our legal advisers are reviewing our full terms and conditions for financial assistance to ensure that they are as robust as they can be, particularly as they relate to responsibilities under specific laws such as the Employment Equality Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Our strategic funding agreements with organisations will in future require organisations to confirm that they have policies in these areas as well as in the area of gender equality. This will be attached to the draw down of funding from the Arts Council.
The Arts Council's code of conduct for staff, our good faith reporting policy, our ethical behaviour policy, our harassment in the workplace policy, our disputes procedure and our whistleblowing policy have all been uploaded to our website under a new section on HR on the corporate governance page. We are also working with the Minister to facilitate discussions within the sector over the coming weeks. Together, we met the leaders from the theatre organisations last week, who recently co-signed the statement condemning sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre in Ireland. The purpose of that meeting was to discuss new ways in which the Department and the Arts Council can support the sector in creating a safe culture and environment for those working in the industry. The meeting, as the Minister outlined last week, provided a platform for discussion, debate and ideas, with other measures to be announced.
The Arts Council is committed in its strategy, Making Great Art Work, to improving the living and working conditions of artists. What we have heard over the past number of days is that organisations must be supported more to ensure that the right conditions are in place for all artists and those working in the arts sector. We will provide that support. We look forward to working together with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the sector to understand better the supports that are needed to ensure best practice in the arts sector.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it today. Our colleague, Ann Russell, was taken ill and she is replaced by Andrea Irvine.
The Irish Equity group was established in 1949 to organise and represent actors in the Republic of Ireland with the objective of securing decent working and living conditions for actors. In 1979, the Irish Equity group merged with the then ITGWU, now SIPTU, and became the cultural division of the ITGWU. The cultural division also included the Association of Artists in Ireland, led by Robert Ballagh, the Society of Irish Playwrights, with John O'Donovan, and the Association of Irish Composers. Currently, Irish Equity sits within the arts and culture sector of the services division of SIPTU and the day-to-day work is overseen by an executive committee of Irish Equity members who are elected at the AGM of Irish Equity. During all of this time the union has been concerned not only with a narrow focus on wages and conditions, but also with the quality of life for actors at work and in society.
It was no surprise that when, in more recent times, anecdotal evidence of bullying and harassment started to come our way, this matter was discussed frequently and at length by the executive committee of Irish Equity. Subsequently, a decision was taken to undertake a survey of workers in the arts to get a snapshot in time of the experience of people working in the various disciplines in the arts. This survey was put together in 2015 and went live online in early 2016. There were 285 responses to the survey. Over 63% of respondents were female and over 80% were between the ages of 25 and 54 years, with 62% describing their working situation as freelance. Over 57% of respondents said they had experienced bullying in the course of their work, with almost 74% confirming that they did not report this behaviour to anybody.
The effects of the bullying are quite significant with anxiety and depression, feelings of dread, not wanting to go to work and sleeping problems among the symptoms described.
Irish Equity was very concerned by these findings and while we do not assert that the survey is large, overly formal or academic, the information gathered is extremely useful in giving a picture of the real life experiences of workers in the arts. We published our survey along with good policy guidelines and circulated it to Equity members and various funding bodies. Our intention was to engage the funding bodies in a conversation about our concerns about the findings and to ask for their support in finding ways to change a workplace cultural problem within the arts. We were disappointed with these engagements. Our position was that the level to which applicants for public funding have awareness and good policy and procedures needed to be established. Having good policy and procedures in place should be a qualifying criterion for public funding. Where organisations were identified as not having these policies and procedures, the union, the organisation and the funding bodies should co-operate in assisting them to develop them. While generally sympathetic to the argument, for the most part the funding bodies we spoke to did not see it as their role to interfere in the governance of organisations to this extent. The exception was the Dublin City Arts Office, which was quick to acknowledge the survey outcomes and was agreeable to working with the union to endeavour to create cultural change. The union agreed with the Arts Office that a broader engagement with the industry was required. We then reached out to Screen Training Ireland and Screen Producers Ireland to discuss the possibilities of holding an industry seminar on dealing with bullying and harassment at work and on promoting good practice. This event was organised over the summer and took place on 10 November in the Dublin City Arts Office building in Foley Street. It was a successful event with 50 people from theatre, film and TV present.
While it was an instructive and informative event for those participating, on its own it is not enough to create the kind of attitudinal change that is required. Irish Equity is of the view that a number of actions need to be taken. While Irish Equity welcomes the initiative taken by the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, including the engagement with the heads of eight leading theatre organisations to discuss ways to create a change in culture for the arts, a baseline needs to be identified. If this is to be a credible exercise with real and lasting outcomes, the Minister should be satisfied that those eight organisations are operating good practice on issues of bullying and harassment. This is essential if these organisations are being asked to take the lead on the matter. There should be direct co-operation and engagement between Irish Equity, arts organisations and training bodies to develop and monitor best practice in the industry. The Minister should encourage theatre organisations to establish a representative umbrella body that can engage with stakeholders collectively on industry matters in the way that Screen Producers Ireland does for the audiovisual industry. This will greatly assist in creating industry oversight and norms.
Given the freelance nature of the work in the arts for many, a method of reporting that protects the worker needs to be established. Extending the cover of the protected disclosures legislation to cover reporting of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment would provide the required safe space for workers. It would provide enough incentive for employers and arts organisations to take on these issues with the level of seriousness they deserve.
Drama schools and arts colleges should develop at least one module on dignity in the workplace and creating a positive workplace culture so the next generation of workers in the arts bring new perspectives on what a dignified workplace means. All applicants for public funding should have to have good practice and policy in place as a prerequisite for access to such funding. The objective of all of this is to ensure that culture change is achievable and sustainable and to ensure the message to perpetrators of bad behaviour is clear, that the workplace is a harassment free zone, perpetrators are not welcome and will be found out and weeded out.
Míle buíochas as sin. I will open up with some questions. Nobody has indicated they wish to ask a question yet. There are good laws governing this area. There are regulatory bodies tasked with ensuring those laws are delivered in an equal fashion. We also know there are significant problems and in the past couple of weeks a number of individuals have felt their only recourse for a resolution of their difficulties was to go to the media. We owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who have done that. It can often mean career suicide and it is a very brave thing to do. We need to thank them for it.
Two important issues come out of this. First is how we create a culture where this type of practice does not happen. What is our response to these types of activities? I read with interest the Equity document. It is very strong. Two or three figures really stand out for me there. One is the high number of freelance individuals working within it which means there is a precarious work structure there. Elsewhere when we look at precarious work, people tell us they are fearful of raising their voices because they may not get another contract in the future. The other is the high number of people - over 60% - who felt they have been bullied. Over 70% of those state they did not want to report it because they felt it would negatively affect the next job they got. They are startling figures. The other element that can sometimes create such a culture is a situation in which there is a very weak workforce where people cannot stand up for themselves. Precarious work causes that. There are possibly also individuals in particular roles who are very powerful and who do not have the necessary oversight. The power imbalance is radical and therefore can be abused. The other issue is there is not an adequate level of accountability. What is Equity Ireland's view on those kind of power differentials and how can they best be resolved? Is there something we need to do with the contracts of work? Is there a need to have more people employed directly to strengthen workers' rights and entitlements? Is that flexibility needed within the system?
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
The Chairman made a very interesting observation. When we say there is a high level of freelance work, we mean people are self-employed. A lot of people who work in the arts industry go from one production to another or one project to another, not just on a freelance basis but also on a self-employed basis. They are not companies and they do not have other employees; they are sole traders and they are engaged in that way. Part of the problem is that this sometimes creates an obstacle to the legal rights of workers because for the most part legislation applies to employees and not workers. That definition is really important. If one reads the definitions in a lot of the workplace legislation, it says it applies to employees and it gives a definition of what that is. The only legislation that comes to mind to me that does not do that is the Industrial Relations Act. The Industrial Relations Act provides for mechanisms that are not enforceable in law; they are voluntary mechanisms. Expanding or changing the term used from "employee" to "worker" would spread the protection for people and give those employed in that sort of capacity access to a lot of workplace protection and legislation.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
No, I absolutely do not. The Chairman mentioned the Employment Equality Act and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act earlier. Those Acts are very comprehensive and they are difficult to process. There is an absence of legislation dedicated to bullying and harassment at work and the responsibilities and avenues of redress around that. The Workplace Relations Commission is very well situated to handle complaints of that nature if there was legislation on the specific issue. It would be really useful. Negotiating the Employment Equality Act or the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act for individual workers is difficult because if the complaints are not made in a very specific way using very specific language sometimes it can be lost later on for no other reason than somebody did not know how to articulate the complaint in the beginning.
This is a difficult question. Funds come through the Arts Council to many production companies and theatres that employ individuals on these types of contracts.
The governance of those organisations must reach a certain standard for them to attain their funding, which is proper and right. Let us say that a regulatory body such as the Workplace Relations Commission has found that an organisation has consistently not adhered to these laws. Does the Irish Equity group believe that such a situation should be one of the criteria used by the Arts Council and the Department to adjudge future funding for that organisation?
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
In the first instance it would be useful if we created an opportunity for these organisations to get themselves into the right space. In the first instance, the funding bodies have a role to play in collecting data on funding applications in order that we can assess who has good policies and practices. If somebody is a persistent offender in terms of not having the policies and procedures in place or having judgments against them by whatever body is dealing with the complaint, then the funding bodies must take a view. The last thing we want to do is take funding from arts organisations that give employment and create good artistic productions. If somebody is a persistent offender, then we must call time and say to him or her, "You know what, until you get your house in order then you really cannot put your hand out any more. This is public money and you have a responsibility to treat people with a degree of dignity. If you are not going to do that then there is no room for you at this table." Having given organisations the support and opportunity, we must reach a stage where we are direct.
I ask the Arts Council the same question. I welcome the actions that the Department and the Arts Council have taken to tackle this matter in recent weeks. It is good stuff. In terms of this particular issue, I know that the Arts Council has sent a letter to these organisations seeking re-confirmation. Let us say an independent regulatory body identified companies or organisations that did not fulfil the law in these areas. Does the Arts Council think it would be logical to conclude that future funding for another contract would be viewed in that regard?
Ms Orlaith McBride:
We already place conditions on an ongoing basis on the funding that is given to organisations. For example, if organisations do not submit their annual audit then we may withhold funding. We are quite vigilant in terms of ensuring organisations have proper governance procedures, etc. in place. We do, as a matter of course, withhold funding where organisations have not complied with the conditions attached to the funding.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
Not in relation to that piece around other regulatory authorities. Our legal advisers are considering them at the moment to see whether we can strengthen our terms and conditions, particularly as they relate to legal obligations on organisations. There is a limit to our authority. If there are other parts of the State that have regulatory authority in this domain then we would work more closely with them.
We will have to take a break in a short while because it looks like there is a vote in the Dáil. I am nearly finished and I have two minutes to ask questions. I wish to ask the Department similar questions. Yes, there is good legislation and regulatory bodies to oversee organisations. Unfortunately, there is still a power imbalance in the sector. In terms of the level of accountability with regard to funding, that stick is not there. Do the officials from the Department agree with the previous two speakers that that should be part of the expectation of accountability?
Ms Katherine Licken:
Yesterday, the Irish Equity group met the Minister to discuss the same issues. A power imbalance is an issue. The Chairman has spoken about issues being brought to the WRC and what one would do. The prior step to that is that people feel they can approach the WRC. We hear about the claims in the first instance.
From the Department's perspective, we fund the bodies under the aegis of the Department and we also fund different entities across the spectrum. All recipients of State funding, either directly from the Department or through an intermediary funding body, are subject to the provisions of the grant circular that is provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, DPER. The circular relates to public financial management principles and procedures, and it has reporting requirements. The bodies that operate under the aegis of the Department are required in their annual report and accounts to assure us that they have complied with the law, which includes the legislation that we are talking about today.
In approving capital grants, recently we have attached provisions for the new governance code that arose out of the charities sector. Again, we encourage organisations along the journey rather than, as the Irish Equity group said, wield a hatchet straight away. We can withhold funding in the same way that the Arts Council can if we feel that a body has not complied with the various points of law.
Mr. Feargal Ó Coigligh:
In terms of the conditions that we lay down, there is no particular need for new legislation. Having listened to all the speakers here, there has been an emphasis placed on the culture of the sector. There is a huge amount of legislation and the Irish Equity group has mentioned some issues. The sector must address the culture, which is a much more powerful statement than necessarily seeking legislation.
Cuirim fáilte roimh gach éinne atá anseo. I have great experience working with many of the people here as a former Minister of State at the then Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and together with Equity and other trade unions to try to get collective bargaining rights for freelancers, an initiative with which we had some success. I wish to make some general comments which people might then reflect on or answer. As the Chairman has done, I give great praise to those who are brave enough to come forward to talk about their experience in the arts world. The Waking the Feminists movement was particularly strong in this regard in talking about gender inequality in the artistic world, particularly the field of drama.
I attended a gender equality conference a number of years ago and I remember being very taken by a contribution by, I think, Rachel Lysaght, a moviemaker. She said 75% of the moviemakers in Ireland are male and, therefore, 75% of the storytellers through film in Ireland are male, and that has an impact. First, I would like the witnesses to talk about gender equality in the sector in its totality. My first question is what practical measures are being put in place to ensure we have gender equality on boards and as a live issue in every facet of the work people are doing, not just in oversight, but also in production?
I was taken by the Arts Council's comment that it is not a regulatory agency. I understand where it is coming from but I was also interested to hear that Equity was very impressed with the interaction it had with the Dublin City Arts Office, although it is not a regulator, and its view of the different work it was overseeing or funding. My second question is whether issues of gender equality, the workplace, policies and procedures that are in place, and governance have to be taken into account before departmental funding, be it through the Arts Council or otherwise, is handed over. Should the Arts Council, even though it is not a regulatory body, not always be conscious of this?
Do people feel that the arts is an area that leads to the cult of the individual? The cult of the individual can be positive but is often a very negative thing when an entity becomes synonymous with the person leading it and then the person becomes almost all-powerful and very difficult to challenge. Is this more prevalent in the arts than in others areas and, if so, how can it be tackled?
Ms Orlaith McBride:
The Senator raises a number of questions. As part of the funding for our strategically funded organisations, they will now have to confirm that they have gender equality policies in place. Regarding governance structures in the context of gender equality, the Arts Council's membership, under the council's legislation, must be at least 50% female. The last three directors of the Arts Council have been female, so in terms of the culture of our organisation, there is probably gender inequality on the other side. Last night the Arts Council hosted a reception for 24 next-generation artists, as we call them. These are artists who are just starting out in their careers and to whom we have made a bursary. They will all come together for a week in Annaghmakerrig next year. As an aside, of the 24 artists, 18 were women.
All organisations in receipt of recurring funding from the Arts Council must demonstrate very clearly that they have proper governance procedures in place. We insist that all organisations sign up to a transparency code, which clearly asks organisations to publish on their websites information as it relates to their boards, their accounts, etc.
We developed a practical guide for board members of arts organisations in 2015. We have also developed a suite of other governance documents, such as constitutions, etc., to support organisations. After we published the guide, we held a governance seminar to support organisations so that they could have their own houses in order in terms of proper governance procedures and policies. We insist that organisations very clearly demonstrate that they have proper governance procedures, etc., in place. That is then tied in to our conditions of funding.
Ms Katherine Licken:
In terms of the boards under the aegis of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has been very proactive on the gender equality front. Some 51% of the members on boards under the aegis of this Department are female and 49% are male. As Ms McBride pointed out, the composition of the board of the Arts Council is 58% female. The composition of the board of the Crawford Art Gallery is 64% female. The board of the Heritage Council is 55% female; the board of the Irish Film Board is 71% female; the board of IMMA is 55% female; the board of the National Gallery of Ireland is 53% female; and the board of the National Library is 50% female. This year, the Minister organised a workshop for all of the cultural institutions under the aegis of her Department with a view to them developing gender policies. It makes a difference when one makes a statement by nominating people to those positions.
I mentioned earlier the governance code, which arose on foot of developments in the charity sector. We ask organisations to comply with the code and if they have not complied, to commence on that journey. The code asks organisations to agree to operate to key principles in order to run their operations more effectively in areas such as leadership, transparency, accountability and behaving with integrity. That is one of the conditions we put on organisations that the Department funds.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
The arts community in Ireland is relatively small, so it is easy for that to happen. One of the factors that has fed the cult of the individual has been the growth of freelance or self-employed workers in the sector in the past 25 years or so. I will repeat what I have already said: one of the ways to deal with that is to look at the level of protection afforded to self-employed or freelance individuals, that is, examine the definition of "worker" in the employment legislation. As I said previously, most of the employment legislation refers to "employees". As a result, if one is in a situation where there is a bad culture or there is the cult of the personality and on is a freelance or self-employed person, one does not have any rights at work in the way that an employee of the organisation involved would have. In my view, the way to deal with this issue would be to change the requirement so that people would be workers as opposed to employees and then everybody would have equal protection. It would certainly help to address the vulnerability of freelance workers and break that down.
I thank the witnesses who have come here this afternoon to engage with us. I am interested in the survey that was conducted by Irish Equity. How many people were invited to participate in the survey?
It produced very interesting results. I noticed a category of "others" in the survey. I wondered why people who do specific roles were not included such as, for example, those who hold technical roles, namely, technicians, rather than theatre producers. Why was a decision taken not to be more specific about that?
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
The survey was conducted by Irish Equity, which predominately represents performers. That was the general catchment group. As it turned out, it was not all performers who responded. We left it open to people to say what is their profession. As a consequence of the results of that survey and the conservation that has been very public in the past number of weeks, we are preparing to release a second survey that is more detailed. It will address, in particular, the areas of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour and try separate theatre and audio-visual sectors. This is not just a theatre problem, it is more pervasive at work in general and in society in general. We want to test the waters regarding the audio-visual sector as well. We did not specifically ask a question in the survey about sexual harassment. We had a piece where most of the people who said they had experienced a form of bullying and harassments were female. However, one could not presume anything from that. We must ask more specific questions.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
There are other parts of the union that actively represent other grades and there are other unions and guilds. For example, the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild, the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland and so on. There is a section of SIPTU which covers the arts and culture sector and which represents people who work as stagehands, riggers, lighting, musicians, camera operators, sound operators, etc.
Ms O'Loughlin referred to a persistent offender. How would she define a persistent offender in the context of that individual's behaviour regarding other people in the workplace? How would one reach a point where one states that someone is a persistent offender.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
A persistent offender is somebody who does not stop when he or she is asked to do so. If there is an investigation and the person is proven to have been harassing someone or behaving inappropriately - and there is a penalty for that - and that individual does it again, that is a persistent offender. A persistent offender is somebody who does not recognise that the climate has changed.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
People are entitled to the presumption of innocence and to defend their good name. If somebody is accused and, after investigation, the complaint is found to be true, then the person must acknowledge the wrong and must change his or her behaviour. If he or she does not, he or she is a persistent offender.
I thank Ms O'Loughlin. I have questions for the Arts Council. The council has pages on corporate governance with the various different policies. Can these be used as templates for arts organisation? In other words, can such organisations can download them and adapt them for their own use?
Ms Orlaith McBride:
Of course they can download them. Obviously, the Arts Council is a public service organisation so there are public service obligations on us that might not pertain to smaller organisations or to those with other governance structures. That is why we put the pages online, so that people could use them as a resource.
I welcome the proactive response of both the Arts Council and the Minister.
Freelance workers are very vulnerable. I was trying to get my head around the distinction between employees and workers. Obviously, the employees of an organisation would have their staff handbooks in which all the grievance procedures would be outlined. Do our guests have any ideas on how one could extend that type of protection to freelancers such that when they walk into a new environment, there is some person to whom they can report directly if an issue arises. Does anyone have ideas in that regard? It seems that there is a real issue for freelance personnel because they do not have a procedure to follow should an issue arise.
The governance workshops and the regional information days are terrific ideas. Who will be running them, and who can attend them? Will everyone who wants to go get an opportunity to attend?
Ms Katherine Licken:
Four bodies reporting directly to the Department will be tendering for the governance workshops and seeking someone to roll them out. We are currently drawing up that tender with a view to getting it out as quickly as possible. We are then going to work with the Arts Council to decide how best to get similar workshops in the regions.
Ms Katherine Licken:
I do not think it was my phone.
We hope to go to tender shortly on that. The regional workshops will involve working with the Arts Council to figure out how best to do that, and will probably be informed by what we do with the bodies under the aegis of the Department.
We had a meeting with the eight leaders from the theatre sector. We have further work to do. It was discussed with Irish Equity yesterday, with the Minister, and we are still talking to the Arts Council and the Irish Theatre Institute about how best to do something on this. A bottom up and top down approach is very appropriate here. We should actually ask the people on the ground what they think and what would work for them as opposed to assuming that we know what will work for them. We have not worked through the full details of this initiative yet. We are still talking about it and it needs time so that it is done right, but it might be a useful opportunity for everybody to workshop what would work and what would not.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
Does anybody else have ideas around the vulnerability of the freelancers? Organisations have their handbooks. All organisations will say that what is in those handbooks applies equally to all people, whether they are employees or freelance. That works very well on paper but it does not work in practice because those procedures are not equally applied to the freelancers for a couple of reasons. Freelance people do not have any rights to fall back on whereas employees do, so there is more pressure on organisations to apply the procedures to employees. It is difficult sometimes to link the incident to the effect because, as some actors that we represent tell us, their phones just stop ringing. That can happen for many reasons, and it is very difficult to pinpoint the reason as the time that they complained about something on a particular production. It is a small artistic community and the people are working for the same employers most of the time. Freelancers have no rights to fall back on, and that is the problem. That is why I emphasised the worker versus employee scenario, because I do not see a situation where that playing field can be levelled unless freelance people can have access to the same protective rights as employees.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
There are probably over 30 pieces of employment legislation on the Statute Book. I believe it would be difficult for one piece of legislation to capture all of that for freelance people unless there is a way to amend the standing legislation so that the word "employee" is changed to the word "worker". In that case, if one is engaged by an organisation as a freelancer on a contract for service, one would have the same rights as someone on a contract of service. The most simple way to do that is to change the word "employee" to "worker". I am not sure that one piece of legislation could capture all of the employment law that exists. That would be complex.
I thank the witnesses for taking the time to come in. Perhaps it is my age, but even with all the governance in the world, if the behaviour of people in power structures is out of order, that is what it is. I am loath to get into more legislation, as Ms O'Loughlin said.
I thought the survey was very interesting. It was very simple and concise. The witness complained that it was not academic. I have found that some academic surveys are so appalling that one cannot get through the chaos to get to the actual results. One of the most interesting things was that only 26% of respondents actually reported anything, for the very reasons outlined by the witness.
There is a huge dichotomy between the freelancer and the permanent worker. There is creativity in working freelance. Many artists want to be free and want to move, so it is very hard to find what the witnesses are advocating and at the same time allow the artist to be free to go and take part in projects with theatres and visual arts organisations as they please. It is a dichotomy, but the witnesses make a very interesting point about how one can hold that independence but have a standard of governance as opposed to a standard of accountancy. In the past, it seems we were more interested in accountancy than we were in actual people.
How do the Department or the Arts Council see this committee? Do the witnesses find it relevant? If so, what is the relevance? I ask because I am worried about what is our role. Do we just make statements? Should we be part of the role the Department and the Arts Council are playing with the Minister, in terms of the joint approach they spoke about? Orlaith McBride's talk was very comprehensive in terms of what they are doing and what they are trying to do by coming together. What do the witnesses see our role as? I am sitting here and wondering what exactly I am supposed to be doing beyond making the odd statement.
There was a controversy in the arts, and in politics too. The art of the individual is equally as evident in politics. In my long and awful life, the one place I felt bullied was in the arts sector. It was some years ago and it does not matter who, where or when. When all this came up, I almost went into hiding myself because it reminded me so much about it. Creativity is so free, and it is free for other people to take over. There are no rules because of its creativity. That is both its strength and its weakness. What is our role? What are we supposed to be doing here? It is important to the Department that we are not sitting here as a committee making little speeches. Today there happens to be something controversial. I want the Arts Council to answer that question as well, because I do not see the point of remaining on the committee and sitting here if we are not relevant.
Ms Katherine Licken:
On the question of whether we need more law in this area, we certainly need the tone to be set at the top and we need a change of culture. The very fact that we are in this room talking about it and the fact that it is being reported on gives a very loud and clear message to people who behave badly that it is not acceptable. It is worth being here today for that alone. Some of the measures that we are taking concern that tone from the top. We need the tone to be that the people in charge do not like this kind of behaviour and do not accept it. It is very important, and there are ideas coming out of this gathering here today that we will take back, listen to, think about and perhaps take into the forum.
Mr. Pádraig Murray:
It is a very interesting question. My personal observation is that there are not two sides to this. Everyone in this room is on the same side on this issue. It is an issue that has affected and is affecting our industry, which we all work in and love.
I join others in saying what an incredible service those women have done for our industry by coming forward in this manner and how brave it is of them to do this. In one of the interviews I read, one of the women said that she did not know where to go. This happened to her and she did not know where to go. There is one thing that can come out of this. Equity had a big success this year in the context of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2017, which came into law on 1 September. I am convinced that it came about because it had cross-party support and was not opposed by anybody. Everybody agreed that it was an injustice and there was cross-party support. We are here as a cross-party committee - ourselves and the Arts Council. The one thing that needs to come out of these discussions, rather than just more hot air, will be that somebody will know they can go somewhere if an issue of this nature arises again. That is an important aspect.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
I shall respond to the question posed by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell. There are two issues. The Arts Council, which is a State agency, the Department and the union, Equity, are all represented here and are all accountable in a way. Processes such as this, coming and presenting to the committee, make us accountable. We are accountable in any event but I believe we are almost accountable to ourselves in a much more significant way than heretofore. It would be extraordinary to have an Oireachtas committee that did not discuss one of the most significant issues to have happened in the arts and theatre community. In the context of accountability and the actions we are taking to ensure that situations such as this do not arise again, that individuals do not feel so silenced and that they can come forward, we are having a public debate so that people will not behave in that way in the future.
I take that point. My point was that we are here because it is a highly controversial matter. My question was more general in nature. It is a very serious question. How does the Arts Council see it in more general terms? I would put the same question to the Department. It was not just in respect of this issue.
Mr. Martin O'Sullivan:
I wish to make a point in respect of an earlier comment on how we can assist the organisations we fund. The director made reference to templates and so on. When the Companies Act 2014 was introduced - and with the implementation of the Charities Act - the Arts Council looked very seriously at how we could support organisations. The organisations we fund are relatively small. It is a number of individuals trying to cover many different areas. We set out, literally, memorandum and articles of association so that companies limited by guarantee and the newly formed and designated activity companies could, as organisations, actually take the template and implement it. I use this as an example of how the Arts Council could assist organisations in getting through some of that detail in respect of the various issues.
The reason I asked the question is because I agree with Ms Pratschke that there is not enough conversation about the genius of the arts in our society. It happens only at times like this when gender quotas or controversial issues arise. We do not really infiltrate it. It is not even infiltrated through the Departments. It is not infiltrated thought education as a statutory and absolute right. It may happen under the new creative pillars. I feel that we are constantly battling something else to get through to it and that the conduits to it are very chaotic. This is my first time serving on this committee. I served on the education and social welfare committees prior to this. Even at those forums it was not discussed. It is also not discussed in the context of mental health or the elderly. The arts are not referenced all the time. It is, however, the one thing that makes us who we are. It is most important. Perhaps we need more voices at this committee and more platforms. We are constantly battling to it through something else or talking about it, from a default position, in the context of tourism or the economy. We do not talk about it in its own right. I am aware that our guests who are involved in this area - entirely and independently - for the sake of it. I am just trying to get through that chaos in the context of this committee's discussions and not just to talk about the controversiality or the gender quotas, which are extraordinarily important. The arts are genderless - they are human.
It is very important to say this in front of the witnesses. We rarely get representatives from the Department, the Arts Council and Equity appearing before the committee in one group. This is an opportunity, therefore, to say that there are members who really believe in the arts and who see them as fundamental to our heartbeat.
I welcome the contributors. I commend the women in the arts who have come forward, who told their stories and who have all contributed to this watershed moment. I commend Grace Dyas on her bravery. We are being told by Government that laws are in place. I am not so sure about that. Ms Karan O'Loughlin has mentioned more than once the opportunities on the legislative front for us, as legislators, to consider, although the easy option might be to say that the culture is lagging behind, and perhaps it is. However, the national and the global conversation that is ongoing absolutely has to be followed by actions, some of which I welcome, from the various representative sections to drive out unacceptable behaviours, the toxic masculinity that we see around this place, and abuse of power. For those who abuse that power, there should be consequences for their funding. When the State gives contracts or funding to organisations, the highest levels of workers’ rights should be expected.
I have a couple of questions for the Arts Council. In its submission, the Arts Council said "We must use recent revelations as a catalyst for change". Given that, in January and February 2016, Equity produced a survey that represented the lived experience of artists, why is the catalyst for change needed only now?
My second question concerns reports. It has been reported that during her time on the board of the Arts Council, Ms Orlaith McBride had a friendship with Michael Colgan.
For Ms McBride, as a board member with voting rights to determine the allocation of public funding, did that represent a conflict of interest? If so, would Ms McBride have removed herself from those board conversations?
With respect, we have a situation in which the Minister is clinging to section 24(2) of the Act which says "The council shall be independent in the performance of its functions under this section", that is in the funding of the arts. We are talking about more than €60 million in public moneys. If I see a conflict of interest, I think-----
I am told the matter could be sub judiceand as a result we have a number of objectives. We want to safeguard any victims there may be in the process. The danger is if we are seen to discuss these issues we may make it harder for those cases to occur in future. However, it might be useful to have a continuing discussion in private session after this meeting. If people are happy to go down that route, issues could be teased out in that way. We are required to fulfil our responsibilities with regard to people’s good name. I ask the Senator not to proceed with that question.
The Arts Council says its strategic funding agreements will in future require organisations to either confirm or submit their policies in these areas, as well as in the area of gender equality. What will happen if they are in breach of those policies?
The Minister has consistently said in the press that the council should be independent in the performance of its functions with regard to the funding of the arts. What the Minister is failing to tell people is that in Part 2, section 5 of the Arts Act 2003, the Minister can issue a directive to the Arts Council to suspend funding or future funding to any organisation. Why is the Department consistently saying it has no mandate in terms of the funding of the arts, when in reality, under Part 2, section 5 of the Act, the Minister can issue a directive.
Ms Katherine Licken:
Part 2, section 5, says the Minister can make directions "other than under section 24". Section 24 on funding of the arts says "The Council may, for the purposes of (a) stimulating public interest in the arts, (b) promoting knowledge, appreciation or practice of the arts, or (c) improving standards in the arts, or (d) otherwise assisting in the development or advancement of the arts, advance such amounts of moneys as it determines to such persons or in respect of such activities as it considers appropriate out of moneys at its disposal upon such terms and conditions as it determines." It then says, "The council shall be independent in the performance of its functions under this section." That is an Act of the Oireachtas.
Yes, but it does not give a blank cheque. More than €60 million of public moneys is being delivered to the Arts Council so for the Minister to say she has no mandate contradicts the provision that "The Minister may, in relation to the performance by the Council of its functions ... give a direction in writing to the Council requiring it to comply with such policies of the Minister or the Government as are specified in the direction." The section provides that "The Council shall comply with a direction under this section." Therefore, it is problematic for the Minister to be saying-----
Can we tease that point out? One of my questions was whether it is within the gift of the Arts Council and the Minister to withhold funding from a future application if there is a consistent breach of employment law as decided by an independent regulatory body. Both answers to that question were that it is the case. Am I right that Senator Warfield is focusing on the same issue?
Mr. Feargal Ó Coigligh:
It relates to the funding of the arts. Section 24 states that the council may "for the purposes of (a) stimulating public interest in the arts [and so on] advance such amount of moneys as it determines to such persons or in respect of such activities." The section is entitled "Funding of the Arts". It is the section of the Arts Act that gives the Arts Council its function to provide grants and to make funding decisions. That is the function of the Arts Council in respect of which the Minister is prohibited in issuing directions.
The council is only independent in the performance of its functions under this section for the purposes of the four areas set out under section 24(1). They are to stimulate public interest in the arts, promote knowledge, improve standards in the arts and assist in the development of advancing the arts. None of those areas concerns the policy that surrounds the issue we are working on and discussing today.
I thank the representatives of the Department, the Arts Council and Equity Ireland for coming in today. I am sorry about the distraction we have had as a result of leaving the committee room to vote in the Dáil. As Senator O'Donnell has said, it is wonderful to have representatives of the arts community presenting today.
I will begin with a number of questions for Ms Katherine Licken. She said that on 10 November, the Department met with leaders in the theatre sector. Does the Department have plans to meet with other sectors within the arts community such as the visual, literary and dance sectors? The controversy has erupted in the theatre sector but it would be naive of us to believe there has been a problem only in that sector. I concur with what Mr. Feargal Ó Coigligh said earlier that it is a cultural problem. It is one we need to make a very significant cultural shift on. I noticed that the Women's Council of Ireland was a strong voice in the debate. The important thing is to establish mechanisms to support and facilitate women or men who find themselves in that position. I am glad to hear from the Department that there are positive and tangible measures. It is important because we were lacking tangible measures to give people a voice when there was a problem. It is important the Arts Council does the work of holding regional meetings across the country.
I concur with what Ms Andrea Irvine and Ms Karan O'Loughlin said. Having come from the arts sector, I know it can be a very lonely and isolated business to be in. In many cases, one is going from project to project and does not have continuity or a structure that provides a platform if there is an issue.
I know these are early days, but I wonder whether we have thought about how we can ensure supports are in place for artists. In many cases, it is necessary for artists to be self-employed because they move from project to project. I ask the witnesses to comment on this important aspect of the matter.
As Ms McBride has said, it is important for organisations that are in receipt of Arts Council funding to have health and safety measures and child protection policies in place. I appreciate that as she clarified at the outset, the Arts Council is not a regulatory organisation. It cannot regulate. I suggest it is equally important for arts organisations to have measures in place to ensure women and men are not bullied or harassed in the workplace.
I wonder whether the Arts Council - I welcome both Ms McBride and Ms Pratschke - has any plans in place to measure or monitor other sectors in addition to the theatre sector. There are many sectors in which people have found themselves in vulnerable positions. Such people might not have had a voice. I ask the witnesses to comment on that.
I ask Ms McBride to comment on the notion that somebody could be an employee within an organisation while also sitting on the board of that organisation. What are the compromises that surround that? How can we facilitate an arm's length approach that allows the board to work independently of the wider organisation? How can we ensure people have a voice in the event of a problem? How can we ensure there is a basic structure in place to have such issues addressed?
Ms Irvine made an important comment about an issue that arose at the last meeting of this committee. We had a long discussion on Creative Ireland when we were going through the figures as part of the Estimates process. As I have said openly, my concern with Creative Ireland relates to the benefit to artists. When we drill down into all the lovely fancy fare that is associated with Creative Ireland, we must know what is the benefit to the artist. I have been there as an artist and as someone who has facilitated artists in projects. It would be a crying shame if artists were not benefitting from events like Cruinniú na Cásca. Such flagship one-day events are wonderful in so far as they allow us to promote the country from a tourism perspective, but I want to know if artists are benefiting from them. I would not like to think that any professional artist who was involved in that event in any shape or form did not get a professional fee. I hope artists did not feel they had to be there because they would miss out on other opportunities if they were not part of it. That would be very wrong. Such practices should not be allowed to continue. We need to drill into these issues, given that €1 million was spent on Cruinniú na Cásca, if my recollection is accurate.
I know how much money was put into it. It is great that we are finally recognising our artists. I believe there is much more work to be done in this regard. I am using Cruinniú na Cásca as an example. As we have Ms Irvine here on behalf of the artists, I would appreciate it if she would speak about the value of Creative Ireland and Cruinniú na Cásca. I refer to the benefit to the artists. Large sums of money have gone into RTÉ and the Irish print media, etc. I would like to know what the artists are getting from all of this.
This is a very vibrant sector. As Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell has said, the arts are "fundamental to our heartbeat" as Irish people. It would be naive of us to think for a second that this issue is confined to the arts sector, or more specifically to the theatre sector. I hope that after these measures have been put in place and the regional meetings have happened, artists can be safe in their workplaces. I hope they can have a voice and a platform that enables any problems that exist to be addressed. As Ms Irvine has quite rightly said, this is all about valuing the arts and respecting artists. I think we are moving towards that by having everyone here today. It is a platform. We certainly have to put a huge value on all of this.
Mr. Martin O'Sullivan:
I will answer the question that was asked about the board. We spoke earlier about the corporate governance section of our website. It is very useful for all our organisations to go through that publication because there is lots of very useful information on it. It is important to note that the Companies Act allows employees to be board members. As part of our best practice guidance, we encourage non-executives to be on the boards of arts organisations. We are very conscious of conflict of interest matters. We have to operate within the Companies Act and all other relevant legislation. We are promoting the best practice that has been set out by Revenue under CHY legislation. We look at trying to improve our conditions and financial systems in ways that really bring this home. We have to operate within the existing structures.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
I will speak about how inclusive the workshops around the country are across art forms. The Arts Council represents and supports all art forms. Therefore, these events are for the entire arts sector. There has been a focus on the theatre community in recent weeks, but what we are doing relates to the entire arts sector. We have many resource organisations with which we work very closely. The organisations in question, which include Visual Artists Ireland and Words Ireland, support individual artists, including individual writers and individual visual artists. We work with the resource organisations to find ways of supporting them in supporting individual artists.
Ms Katherine Licken:
I will answer the question that was asked about Creative Ireland. The principal conduit for the funding of artists is the Arts Council, which has a significant budget to that end. As we have said, the council is independent in its funding decisions. I think everyone here values that independence. Creative Ireland is about raising the profile of the arts sector and embedding creativity across all areas of government. That is why we are working with the Departments of Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs, as well as with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the audiovisual front. There are five pillars to the programme, which is fundamentally about embedding creativity across government and raising the profile of the arts. All of this ultimately benefits artists. Creative Ireland is in its early stages. We have a long way to go. Developments under Creative Ireland will be announced in the coming weeks.
I would like to echo what Ms McBride has said about the workshops. The wider workshops are about the entire community. We will see what comes out of our meeting with the theatre leaders and our engagement with the Irish Theatre Institute. We will assess whether any of the lessons that have been learned could be applied to the remainder of this sector.
Ms Andrea Irvine:
It is terrible that there is 90% unemployment. As a result of the increasing prevalence of the gig culture, as it is known, absolutely no provision is made on a job-to-job basis. If one gets a job, that is a great. This vulnerability is linked to the significant levels of harassment and bullying. As it is so hard to get work, people are afraid to cross anyone or stand up for their rights in case the phone stops ringing, as Ms O'Loughlin has said. Nobody sits people down in such circumstances to tell them what is happening. When the phone stops ringing, people lose their livelihoods. As people become isolated by virtue of not being engaged with their community, they get angry and upset.
We should ensure that artists want to keep making art and to stay in that community and are able to make their contribution. I am sorry but I do not have the statistics for women with me, but when one sees the Waking the Feminists statistics on the numbers of women playwrights, directors and even actresses on the stage, one asks how they can thrive in what is a very difficult and competitive business. The answer is that many of them are not thriving but rather are finding it very difficult. If they are in a relationship, they become an economic dependant. There are no supports for women with families within this profession that acknowledge its precariousness or acknowledges that there are days off and evening work but then days when one could be working long hours. There are no support mechanisms in that regard whatsoever. So many women in their late 20s and 30s have just vanished. Perhaps they will come back when they are about 50 and will get to play crones a lot of the time. There is a real problem in seeing the legitimacy of women in the arts and artists in general financially. These are very real problems, and ongoing, unfortunately.
Yes. I know we are digressing from the topic but I wonder whether the arts community itself could play a greater role in ensuring that young people are not willing to work for nothing. If someone is making a funding application to put on a play or shoot a film, for example, the money he or she needs to do it should be factored in properly, rather than the Arts Council reasoning that if it puts in a certain amount of money it might get a certain result and will make it work that way. Rather, the Arts Council should ask what the applicant actually needs for the project and whether it should just put that amount of money in to ensure the person who does the make-up and the person who does the hair, for example, gets paid properly. The arts must be the only sector in the country in which one is expected to work for nothing. It is totally unacceptable.
I wish to make three points. First, if we want to have respect for the arts, we must finance it. Of the 28 European Union member states, we are second last regarding the money we put into the arts. That is the bottom line and the Department needs to own up to it. Second, Ministers should employ jesters. This used to be done in plays. The jester would always tell a character not to do something or that something would not work. Third, I am not too sure about education and the pillars in Creative Ireland because it is the default position to consider this in the context of tourism or the economy. However, I will reserve that judgment. One thing that could be done in education is that 25 points could be given to those taking music, or another artistic subject that a young person might like to take up, in the leaving certificate in the same way as we are so quick to give it to those taking higher level mathematics.
The issue we have been discussing is extremely grave and important for the mental and physical health of the people working in the sector. I know of many people who literally cannot feed themselves or pay their rents or mortgages because they are blacklisted in the sector. We need to be able to ensure we create a situation whereby there is far more structured employment. Especially in the film industry, employment opportunities do not necessarily arise for a particular project, but production companies employ people more directly over long periods, etc., and the funding in this sector sometimes militates against long-term employment.
The point regarding clear procedures is necessary. There should be no one in the sector who does not know the steps to take to immediately resolve the problem. It is high time that all the unions sat down with the Department and all of the stakeholders and asked how they will proceed to rebalance the power imbalances that clearly exist in all these areas. I welcome the fact that the Department has indicated that the stick of funding could be used in future to really inform people that there will be accountability here. I hope the Minister will come out and openly say as much in the future.
Perhaps the witnesses could address any of those points or any of the issues that were raised by the previous speakers, and then we will take it from there. I call on Ms McBride.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
I wish to respond to the matter Deputy Corcoran Kennedy raised regarding the remuneration of artists. The Arts Council has prioritised this in our strategy. Often, when applications come in to us and our arts managers go through each application forensically and line by line, if artists are not being paid properly it will be flagged as part of the assessment process. It might be that the funding is actually conditional on the applicants' revisiting the artists' fees.
Ms Katherine Licken:
I wish to clarify the funding question. What we look for are assurances and governance. No more than the Arts Council, we cannot be the policing authority or the regulator in this regard but we certainly look for a range of assurances concerning governance and have always done so in funding organisations to ensure they comply with certain provisions. Where we find they are not complying, we encourage them to do so and we can withhold funding if they do not do so.
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
I wish to address very briefly some of the recent comments. I will start at the end and work backwards. I understand the Arts Council is concerned about the remuneration of artists in funding applications. The problem arises for us when people make funding applications and have all their pieces in a nice row and then the project is 60% funded instead of 100% funded. The immediate hit in that case is on the artist because what was proposed to be paid will no longer be paid and the funding will get rejigged. It is important that the Arts Council be aware of this.
This idea of working for nothing is very prevalent, particularly among younger artists. They get conditioned into it very quickly when they come out of third level education if they are at drama school, film school or whatever else. The language around this is important. I have never come across a line of people who are willing to work for nothing; I have come across people who end up having to work for nothing. There is no queue of people who say they will work for free; there is pressure on people to appear for free because one can get oneself seen, one can have the opportunity to work with a particular director or producer, and there is always a vague promise that that may deliver more for the young person in the future. That is the situation in which they find themselves. In this regard we have developed some good guidelines, which we have on our website, concerning fringe and low-budget productions. Often what happens is when there is very little money, there will be some sort of a share production. What is it called-----
Ms Karan O'Loughlin:
A profit-share production. We have guidelines around that as well to ensure everyone gets a fair shake of the income that is generated from those productions. Highlighting these kinds of guidelines is useful to try to keep some floor of income under the artist.
I wish to clarify my comments on freelancers. Creating the floor of rights for freelancers as employees, giving them the same rights as employees at work, is really the key answer, from my perspective. That is not to say that they should not be freelancers any more. There is huge value for many artistic people in being freelance. However, when they are in a particular engagement at a certain point in time, for that engagement the same rights should apply to them. This does not mean that they all seek permanency, because flexibility is required for people to go from production to production.
I was interested in the Chairman's comments about more structured employment generally across the arts. That is a useful conversation. I am not sure the funding model is at fault. The special purpose vehicle is probably not the best vehicle, but there are comparable examples. In the general construction industry, builders go from project to project and quite often employ people. If the builder has no work people are just laid off, and then when the builder has work people are recalled. That is not without its problems in that people may be blacklisted or not called back, but there are ways of dealing with that through collective bargaining agreements and so on. Therefore, I do not think there is a huge impediment to that discussion and I do not think the funding model needs to be turned on its head to deal with it either. It would be useful to look at comparable sectors and how one could make that work.
Gabhaim míle buíochas do gach duine a tháinig anseo inniu as a gcuid fianaise agus gach rud atá ráite acu. I wish the witnesses luck. I urge them to see if they can get to the bottom of this crisis and make sure people can work safe and sound in any workplace. I thank the witnesses for attending.