Seoul, Korea: Collective re-auditioning strikes again.
In 2011, FIM has been successfully fighting alongside the musicians’ union in Rio de Janeiro (SINDMUSI) against a collective re-auditioning procedure at the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra (OSB). Now the musicians of the orchestra attached to the main Korean public broadcaster KBS are being given the same disgraceful, unfair treatment.
The re-auditioning of the entire orchestra was announced by KBS in last December and is now supposed to occur every year. Chief conductor Shin-Ik Hahm, whose competence is subject to much controversy, was appointed against the advice of the 93% of the orchestra. His support to the re-auditioning principle – which is simply illegal in a country like Germany where symphony orchestras are at the core of national culture – shows how little he knows about conducting an orchestra. Shin-Ik Hahm is also known to have used re-auditions to harass musicians when he was serving as chief conductor at the Daejon Philharmonic in 2006.
The many reasons for which FIM and UNI-MEI strongly oppose re-auditioning are set out in FIM’s Recommendation of October 2011. One of these reasons is that performing an audition as part of a disciplinary hearing places the burden upon the employee to prove he or she can perform, rather than the employer having to prove that there is progressively poor performance on the job, which is not acceptable. Moreover, re-auditioning a musician is placing him or her in a situation that does not reproduce regular working conditions and introduces a level of stress that will inevitably affect the performance in a negative way.
The vast majority of the KBSSO musicians refused to re-audition. Despite their attempt to clarify their position, they were all subject to immediate disciplinary sanctions. The chairman of the trade union committee and the Associate Concertmaster were dismissed. 65 other musicians were suspended for a period of 15 days to 6 months.
Now KBS has decided to outsource the KBSSO to an independent foundation, without any prior discussion with the trade union representatives, which is in breach of the collective agreement in force. The orchestra as it is will cease to exist and will be transferred to the foundation on Sept. 1st. Musicians are required to immediately sign the transfer agreement, which includes the obligation to re-audition every year. Those who will not be signing the agreement are threatened with dismissal from KBSSO.
Outsourcing the KBSSO would clearly have negative consequences:
- KBS plans to progressively reduce its financial contribution. In the absence of any obligation to finance the orchestra, KBS support is likely to stop, sooner or later, thus putting the orchestra’s sustainability at stake. With smaller, uncertain resources, the KBSSO would not be in a position to pursue an ambitious artistic policy and would be forced to focus on profitable repertoires rather than on creative programmes.
- There is a clear intention to lower the status of the musicians, with in particular the introduction of a mandatory, yearly re-audition of all orchestra members.
The chairman of the KBSSO foundation has openly expressed his anti-union feelings: “artists who take part in labour union activities cannot move the heart of the audience” and the newly appointed CEO is known for having fired a large number of musicians by the way of auditions in every orchestra where he held office.
FIM, UNI-MEI and their respective members firmly condemn the harassment of KBSSO workers by the KBS and KBSSO management, which is against core labour and human rights. They urge KBS and KBSSO decision makers to
- Lift all disciplinary sanctions against KBSSO musicians
- Re-consider the outsourcing plan
- Resume the musical season
- Appoint a new conductor, in consultation with the orchestra members, after the termination of Mr Shin-Ik Hahm’s contract (December 31st, 2012).
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