<a href="https://www.de24.news/"><img class="alignnone size-medium" src="https://www.de24.news/a1/de24.png" alt="© www.de24.news" width="400" height="20" /></a><p> The precarious situation of local artists has been known at the latest since the study on the social situation of cultural workers. In the corona crisis in particular, the situation has worsened for many. For members of the "Smart Austria" cooperative, it was a great relief to have jobs that enabled short-time work even in the freelance sector, as Managing Director Sabine Kock explained in an APA interview. </p><div> <p><a href="https://www.de24.news/"><img class="alignnone size-medium" src="https://www.de24.news/a1/de24.png" alt="© www.de24.news" width="400" height="20" /></a><p> The model of "Smart Austria" - founded in 2015 - originally comes from Belgium: "<a href="https://www.de24.news/"><img class="alignnone size-medium" src="https://www.de24.news/a1/de24.png" alt="© www.de24.news" width="400" height="20" /></a><p> The self-employed bring fee-based activities under the solidarity umbrella of the cooperative and can transform them into employment," explains Kock. This would generate both insurance periods and entitlement to unemployment benefits. <a href="https://www.de24.news/"><img class="alignnone size-medium" src="https://www.de24.news/a1/de24.png" alt="© www.de24.news" width="400" height="20" /></a><p> The one-time cooperative contribution is 50 euros, with 7.5 percent of the net amount brought in for an order. In this way, the work performance of the cooperative can be maintained, which, however, does not yet fully cover costs. In any case, any profits would not be withdrawn, but reinvested in the expansion of the services.</p>
The duration varies greatly and ranges from a single workshop to a band tour, from theater projects lasting several weeks to working at the Documenta in Kassel for several months.
“Regardless of Covid, we have noticed an increasing need for security in recent years,” says Kock. Renowned representatives of the dance scene, for example, are repeatedly confronted with “standing times”, which means that social security payments for the self-employed are often insufficient for various claims. That leads to immensely low pension entitlements. “That is better even with a very small job,” emphasizes Kock. For example, there are musicians who have been contributing to the cooperative for three years and are therefore continuously employed – albeit at a low level. “This gives them reserves when they don’t have a gig.”
The cooperative then acts as a contractor for the organizers, which was quite risky last year due to the pandemic. After all, there is a default liability towards the artists, which amounted to almost 100,000 euros in March alone last year.
The result was numerous negotiations with organizers, who often paid at least some of the fees for events that were canceled or postponed due to pandemics, while other events were moved to online formats. This ultimately made it possible to keep the de facto liabilities small until the end of 2020. Since last summer there has been a Covid clause for every new contract that regulates exactly what is paid out in the event of a cancellation.
“Smart Austria” cannot make use of the event protection umbrella because the cooperative does not act as the organizer. Rather, one is seen as a supplier, and a lot of money flowed from the AMS, for example, since around half of the active artists were able to go on short-time with “Smart”. “Smart Austria” has a total of over 1200 “users”, but the number of Coop members is much lower. “Not everyone who comes has to become a member straight away. That only takes effect the second time,” explains Kock.
During the pandemic, they experienced “the shutdown of the cultural sector, including a drop in the number of new interested parties and possible projects”. However, this is largely due to the framework conditions and a lack of orders. In recent months, numerous people seeking help have been guided through the “application jungle” in public online workshops. In general, the range of help in Austria for (self-employed) artists and creative people is good compared to other countries, but Kock criticizes the lack of long-term nature and the fragmented nature of the federal government’s measures. When the pandemic started, Smart had 50 employees. “We tried to find out with each and every user individually what the best option was; half were eligible to apply for short-time work.”
Advice and transfer of know-how is an essential pillar of “Smart Austria”. And with every new member, new expertise is added. “It was also exciting that many artists expanded their portfolios during the crisis and also took on assignments outside of their previous sphere of activity,” says Kock. “During the crisis, we too had the implication that we would have a greater risk diversification in future,” which is why the cooperative is now increasingly to be expanded to include the areas of IT and science as well as independent trade. You can join “Smart Austria” even during the corona crisis, provided you have orders. “What everyone can do is take a look at one of our information sessions. We can check each case individually.”
(S E R V I C E – Genossenschaft “Smart Austria”: https”>www.smart-at.org/”>https://www.smart-at.org/)