Herrschaftsfreie Basisgewerkschaft – Österreichische Sektion der IAA

Workers‘ struggle at the Secession concluded

In ArbeiterInnenkämpfe Ö, English, Kunst/ Kultur on 19. März 2022 at 23:08

dieser Artikel auf Deutsch

Considerable reformist improvements achieved, revolution still has to wait

With a mixture of happiness and sadness, we discontinue all trade union struggle measures against the Secession for the time being. On the one hand, the Secession still owes its workers thousands of euros, but on the other hand, thousands of euros have been successfully fought for and serious structural changes in the museum have been set in motion.

Since shortly before Christmas, it has been quieter around the industrial action at the Secession. On the one hand this was due to the stressful pre-Christmas period and the following holidays, on the other hand it was due to the incredible delay and stress tactics of the Secession itself. What happened? We remember: Secession vaguely promised to recalculate and pay out all outstanding claims. These calculations were not done for months, until on 22 December letters with calculations and „offers“ arrived at the struggling workers. However, those affected were then supposed to accept them within a few days and to accept the – again false – „offers“ in written form. What a farce that a (left) liberal institution pretends that one could confirm back pay, which continues to be below the collective agreement requirements, i.e. that one would have to renounce or even waive claims in order to get paid, …

From that point on, most of the workers did not want to be subjected to the pressure by the Secession. The mixture of non-communication from the management (e.g. zero information in the last lockdown), multiple wrong calculations, refusal for years to even consider the claims, perfidious pressure from the new board, also via external university and private channels, and the refusal to communicate at all with the WAS was for some out of proportion to the still outstanding salary components. In addition, the succès d’estimes had already been quite striking. A justified early resignation was accepted. In the meantime, all low-paid workers received back pay, in some cases amounting to almost six months‘ salary. The permanent contacts in free time, i.e. the on-call treatments, were actually stopped. All ten or so full-time employees in the department confirmed the problem areas we had raised at an internal company jour-fix, and the management is embarking on serious structural reforms.

After the first payments were made to everyone, haggling over the amount was not central to the people concerned, and no one wants to go to the labour court because of the still missing 1000 to 2000 euros per person (besides, there are still more than two years to go). As WAS we would have considered it important not to let bosses get away with simply not paying out salary components or calculating them incorrectly again, but the colleagues who work there naturally have the final say in this matter. In addition, out of a total of eight low-paid workers in the company, four are no longer there and simply want to have their peace.

Therefore, the situation now is that the Secession must continue to put up with public reports that it never calculated the salaries correctly and continues to withhold money from its workers. Thousands of euros are still missing. Among them – apart from a number of inconsistencies that may still have to be checked – in any case, as we now know for sure, all Sunday bonuses and all pro rata 13th and 14th salaries for the overtime and extra hours worked in the last five years. The Secession presumably even believes that its current calculations are correct, … There seems to be no awareness of the fact that the employees have now been running behind their full salaries for year and day. So much for the „sadness“.

Opening rally on 19.11.2021 in front of the Vienna Secession.
Photograph: Wiener ArbeiterInnen-Syndikat

On the positive side, as a small grassroots union we really fought vigorously against an institution like the Vienna Secession and very quickly brought about very real changes. We quickly got the museum into trouble because it had been violating a lot of labour laws for years. It was not for nothing that the management wished that „the employees would rather have organised themselves in the ÖGB (Austrian Trade Union Federation)“, … In this respect we can only repeat that a good union is known to be the one your boss doesn’t like. The active solidarity of women artists exhibiting there is also remarkable and reveals the precarious reality for the majority of artists, apart from the high society, which is big in business.

It is also very positive that we as a whole WAS would not have been at the end of our powers and abilities by a long shot. On the contrary, we are highly motivated and could have shown great staying power in this matter. Moreover, it has been proved once again that struggles are best fought when workers organise together before any problems arise. In such exceptional situations like labour disputes, it is much more exhausting to start building structures and working out basics like „free agreements“, „hierarchy-free decision-making“ or „common goals“ than to be prepared!

Financially, anyway, this labour dispute has brought a very real improvement for the marginal workers. And there is still the small possibility that those responsible at the Secession will once again deign to produce a correct final payroll for all the marginal workers and also transfer the missing few thousand euros – and that without constantly contacting their (former) employees, annoying them, putting them under pressure or generally playing dumb as far as payroll accounting is concerned. By the way, another positive collateral benefit, quasi: all part-time and full-time employees will supposedly have their salaries recalculated as well and will participate without having been actively involved. The Secession itself is of course „not amused“ about such five-digit euro amounts and would have preferred – have we actually mentioned this already – to organise its employees in the ÖGB 😉 .

In any case, we can count the last six months as an extraordinarily good and important testing, training and refinement of our ways of acting and organising. This will strengthen us massively for the coming disputes with bosses who believe that they do not have to comply with labour rights.

Our thanks go to all those who have supported us in this struggle, both locally and internationally, and for whom class solidarity is an honest concern!

Portal labour dispute Secession

Article published on 19.3.2022 on wiensyndikat.wordpress.com. Copying with source reference possible.


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