News from Austria / May 2021

Updated: Jun 20

HEALTH SITUATION


Covid 19 infections are currently falling slightly in Austria, with restaurants, hotels, schools, and theatres remaining closed until 19 May and this, despite studies showing that there is no greater risk of infection in theatres than elsewhere. Shops are open again. As before many cases of infection are due to contacts in the private sphere. From 19th May cultural events are to be allowed, with restrictions of course.


Austria has opened trial zones using Vorarlberg as a test region. There the case numbers increased, but not due to infections in gastronomy and culture, but rather in the private sector. The strict lockdown in the east of the country has affected and pushed the numbers down. Austria is vaccinating as is the rest of Europe. The vaccination campaign was very sluggish at first and there is/was a shortage of vaccine doses, which will supposedly be rectified soon. It is supposed now to be picking up the pace with of course the most important of the important, i.e. the best artists worldwide, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra being put ahead of everyone else.


THE ARTS SECTOR

Churches remained open, even church music was allowed, but only using soloists and very small instrumental ensembles. The arts and cultural sector in Austria will reopen/reopened with 50% of the usual audience capacity on 19 May. Up and till that point there were no public concerts or events for more than half a year. Rehearsals and streamed performances were allowed with hygienic measures being in place


During the pandemic, the Vienna Volksoper had the entire ensemble audition for the new artistic director Lotte De Beer. More than 3/4 of the artists did not have their contracts extended; from the unions and the politicians there came not a sound.

Austrian contracts now have a Covid19 clause which is legally inadmissible, others have penalty payments for incomplete rehearsals for flat-rate contracts.

Soloists are not protected in Austria. The trade union is linked to employers and does not feel any responsibility for them which is why the stimm-IG conceived an artists' advocacy group to put a stop to these intolerable conditions and to set structural change in motion.


TRAVEL

In principle, when entering Austria, you have to complete registration for pre-travel clearance, produce a negative test certificate, and undergo a mandatory ten-day quarantine. There are only a few exceptions. Travelling has always been permitted for work-related reasons and even rehearsals, with Covid19 hygiene measures in place. Overnight stays were also possible.


ACTIONS

The recently founded organization DIALOG DER KREATIVITÄT (Creative Dialogue) is planning a JOY ART GIVING on 19 May. Before that, there were very few demonstrations or similar Cultural happenings by artists. Austrian actors took part in the, by now somewhat discredited action "allesdichtmachen" seen as a slightly misguided satire...


The stimm-IG is currently in discussion with the relevant parties to help set up the very first Austrian Advice Centre against abuse of power in all its forms. Together with the IG Freie Musikschaffende, the stimm-IG has presented its concept for an "Artists' Advocacy" to political leaders. The ombudsman's office we worked out more than a year ago gave the political impetus to at least work out a similar setup and both IGs are involved in this.

The stimm-IG has not, we stress “not”, set itself the goal of fighting problems caused by the pandemic; this is a side issue. It is the intolerable abuses of power and the plight of those with insecure employment and income which are the issues that the stimm-IG has decided to change. The stimm-IG has networked with almost all the relevant major NGOs in the field of abuse as well as intensifying contacts with political leaders.



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