If they don’t get paid more, artists are ready to take their strikes to next level

  • 1015
  • 0

Workers in the cultural sector, including professional art organizations, have started making demands to the government to increase their salaries. They expressed their voices through their Trade Union committees. In the past, local workers from Darkhan-Uul Province demonstrated. However, a new event is expected to include larger scale. Director of Trade Union of National Academic Drama Theatre G.Amgalanbaatar said, “The Minister representing our sector in the government could not increase our salaries. Hence, the Minister should take responsibility for it and give up their job. The theatre and ensemble have almost no workforce. They began going to South Korea to work. There is no possibility to live off our salaries. We are ready to take this fight to the next level unless the Minister of Culture respond positively to our demands.” When trying to clarify about the form of the next fight they talked about going on a strike. The theatre and ensemble workers said that if the strike doesn’t work, they will interrupt the state concerts and the opening of the festival this summer.

Why did artists come to this point? Are their salaries really low? Let’s dig in. Some of the musicians working at the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, National State Philharmonic, and Mongolian Grand Theatre of National Arts receive a monthly salary of 766,480 MNT, while others receive a monthly salary of 895,945 MNT. On the 10th of every month, about 400,000 MNT are given and on the 25th, more than 300,000 MNT are received. This money doesn’t even cover their makeup and hairdos. That’s why musicians are provided for by their spouses’, parents’ and grandparents’ incomes, and pensions.

Orchestrators don’t always necessarily have the same opportunity as others to hustle, which is why they take loan from paycheck to paycheck. If they fail to pay their debt, they are burdened with it, depressed, and have no desire to do anything. However, this is the profession they have acquired, and because they love their profession and work, they strive to be the master and to live by it. Some of them leave their professions and jobs in search of jobs that pay enough to live on. As a result, the three main orchestras of our country are facing shortage of human resources. The number of artists who work in the orchestras of the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (SATOB), State Philharmonic Orchestra, and Mongolian Grand Theatre of National Arts (MGTNA) is decreasing year by year. The State Philharmonic Orchestra, which once had 72 musicians, now have 48. By calling their retired three orchestrators, they have become 51. In order to make grand performances, foreign musicians are hired. At the recent classical music concert dedicated to the 150th anniversary of S. Rachmaninoff’s birth, 17 musicians were brought in, and the sound of the orchestra was brought to an appropriate level. The head of the orchestra M.Enkhtur spoke about this.

There are currently 56 musicians playing in the orchestra of the SATOB, 48 of whom are full-time. Others are contractual. They don't have full-time trumpeters. Only one bassoonist is there when there should be two. One from three bassists went to live abroad. If you want to choose a few students from the conservator who are studying this profession, age, maturity and skills are not enough. The head of the orchestra said that he doubts whether the students studying in the school’s string music class have the desire to grow to the level of working in professional art organizations. Graduates refuse to work with the given salary. The head of the class said and sighed that they could not be blamed for having graduated from a professional school but did not work and went looking for extra wages and income.

Through their Trade Unions, they have repeatedly sent warnings to the government about their low salaries, but no one has ever considered and accepted them. They are saying there is little reason to be offended that they did not care about making it a problem and solving it, and they will not reconcile anymore.

The workers raged on about how the attitude of the Ministry of Culture has been causing dissatisfaction among professional art organizations, in addition to the low salary. Head of the music class of SATOB S.Khulegbaatar said, “The Ministry of Culture told our theater to stop working from around June 10. We will not be doing our planned activities. They said it in connection with the re-enactment of the play ‘Mongol Khaan’. So, if only ‘Mongol Khaan’ is playing, other works such as anniversary of the establishment of opera, ballet, music become irrelevant. It shouldn’t be like this.” Mongolian Grand Theatre of National Arts’ Artistic Director and Chief Conductor N.Buyanbaatar mentioned this topic in his previous interviews to the press and expressed his struggles. Explaining what happened to him, “Previously, we supported the play Mongol Khaan by Hero LLC according to the letter sent by the Ministry of Culture. All the dancers were provided with lights, stage, service staff and manpower. We provided a stage for their performances even by renting a place outside. Even made changes to our shifts.

However, now they will play again. Due to this, the renovation of the Drama Theater and our building will be postponed. Apparently, a building that has water leaks from the roof and rooms that get flooded will be delayed of repairs. The work of the three major professional art organizations will not matter as long as the rehearsals and performances of the play Mongol Khaan are done,” he said with frustration.

At the end of last month, Minister of Culture Ch.Nomin gave an order the MGTNA to create a task force for “Cultural Revival-23” where they will work in 330 soums of 21 provinces. The campaign will be conducted in order to serve the local culture, improve cultural education, and increase accessibility. Not wrong. However, the planned activities of the theater are not taken into consideration, and they are dismissed. The Gobi-Altai province was allocated to the MGTNA. Since the minister in charge of the branch has given such a task, it must be fulfilled, and it seems that the theater will send a team of 20 people to Gobi-Altai province. A person should give an enlightening lecture.

That person will explain the government’s ‘New Revival Policy’. From this, it can be seen that the present authorities and the government, as in the past, have mobilized every branch of society in order to control and subvert public opinion before the parliamentary elections. Artists from professional art organizations said they were particularly upset. In fact, I don’t remember the government treating artists like a dog running to catch a stick and oppressed them in this way. They should have benefits in having a branch ministry, not cause such harm.

It seems that the ruling party has given the task to the minister to shape public opinion with the help of artists. It seems that only the current government and ministers have the power to use the culture and arts industry, professional art organizations, and artists as a tool for political use. There has never been such corruption in history. Looking at it from this point of view, one cannot but agree with the frustration of the workers in the art institutions about the strike, the interruption of the state festival and the state concert.

The workers of the government, especially cultural and art organizations, are not mindless people who hang around at the back and call of the government.

Amarjargal Munkhbat