In a letter sent to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Tuesday, the Estonian Association of Performing Arts Institutions criticized Minister of Culture Anneli Ott for wage policy and restrictions. Ott responded by saying she is always open to discuss keeping the culture sector open during the coronavirus.
In their letter to the prime minister, the association wanted to be recognized by the culture minister for the efforts the sector has made in fighting the coronavirus. They also pointed out that they need confirmation that t
he minister stands for them and there will be no sudden regulation to have only vaccinated workers in theaters.
The performing arts association also reprimanded the culture minister for her management of the culture's wage fund. "We saw that the minister made promises when standing for the culture sector's budget, but the promised wage fund increase was neither 5 percent or 3 percent. Instead, they are implementing fine mathematics that will likely increase the minimum wage for highly educated culture workers by €100, but most of that increase stems from income earned and not from additional resources in the state budget," the association said.
Anneli Ott responded by saying she has met with performing arts institutions' managers to discuss wages and has explained the agreements and options the state budget allows.
"The goal is to maintain a balance so that the difference between a highly educated culture worker's minimum wage and the average Estonian wage does not grow even more. The minimum wage has not increased for the last two years and I have received messages from culture workers that a €100 increase is necessary," Ott posted on social media.
She noted that the government implemented a supplemental budget in the spring, which allocated an additional €42 million to culture. These funds have been used to support culture institutions, organizations, creators and companies in their respective fights against the coronavirus.
"We are always looking for ways in the government and coalition to keep the culture sector open, I will stand for the culture sector in discussions about restrictions and all decisions will be made by taking into consideration recommendations from the Health Board and the scientific council," the culture minister said.
Director of Vanemuine Theater: We feel like we do not have minister
Kristiina Alliksaar, director of the Vanemuine Theater in Tartu, told ERR that communication with Anneli Ott has been random lately and that theaters feel like they stand alone.
Alliksaar said she feels like the sector does not have a minister currently. "We are alone with our problems, we are not heard, not thought of," she said and added that she often hears that the minister is not present at important government sittings. "Yet we are the first ones under fire in this crisis," the theater director said.
She added that the association is not calling for Ott to step down as minister. "I think this decision of fixing the situation with the current minister or someone else is not up to the Association of Performing Arts Institutions," Alliksaar said.
"Our issues stem from support and cooperation during the crisis, funding theaters and their workers, confusion with percentages, misunderstandings about what and if the minimum wage increase will come from, how large is the wage increase of other culture workers aside from those highly educated," the Vanemuine director pointed out key issues in the sector.
She said communication with the culture minister has been chaotic and rare. "We have been in touch via Zoom on some occasions, but we have not made plans together for what the minister could take to the government," Alliksaar said, adding that single meetings have been very superficial.
"The minister is very busy, she has not had time to actually listen to us. Everyone can have their reasons, but it is too much for us," the theater director concluded.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste