Thank you for your trust
Dear President, Dear Executive Board, Dear Advisory Board, dear employees of the GBDA, dear delegates and dear guests,
We have all been campaigning for nine months. In innumerable Zoom conferences, hundreds of members made thoughts of the GDBA, where the GDBA stands, where it should go and who the new president should be. Lots of people have been inspired to take active part in the future of the GDBA, to run for office now or in future times. You can say that it really took off.
At this point, sincere thanks to Nathalie Senf for the extremely fair election campaign. This election campaign has brought the GDBA to the consciousness of many colleagues.
You know, neither of us has done it before. We did everything ourselves, it was sometimes like having a full-time job, adding to our volunteer work.
I would say that this election campaign made many the GDBA aware and expected how relevant and exciting labour union topics are. It flooded a lot of members in the GDBA. Many new local unions were newly founded, including at well-known theaters. People in the social media felt proud with their ID card faces, one had the impression that the younger generation in particular thinks it is really cool to be in the union. The feeling of departure is in the air, many have sensed that something is at stake. And this spirit of optimism we always need. Because we always deal with important topics!
On my campaign trip, which was actually a research trip to the base, I recognized a not so pleasant, recurring narrative, which nips every little impulse to break in the bud. A narrative of hopelessness that is slowly being burned deep into the DNA of us artists. And this is how it works:
“There’s just no money there”.
And the result is: „If we ask too much, the theater breaks down“. This apparent fact is accepted by us even before we have really examined the circumstances. And as we repeat this narrative, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“There is simply no money!” – A narrative becomes a murderous argument – becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy becomes REALITY. Because our language creates reality.
And this narrative “There is no money there!” corrodes our strength. That narrative is poison. It damages our negotiating position and our self-confidence: Because if there is no money and the theater breaks down because we ask too much, then it’s our fault that the theater breaks down.
So this narrative plays with guilt. Guilt that is passes on to the individual, e.g. in the fee negotiation. Guilt that is passes on to the union, which of course does NOT want to be responsible for the fact that theaters have to close. This narrative is an emotional blackmail.
But we must not allow ourselves to be emotionally blackmailed, because the role of a union has always been demanding. In fact, it is a necessary strategy on the road to realistic implementation.
„Because then the theater breaks down!“
I’ll tell you what. It is exactly the opposite: „If we ask too little, the theater breaks down“. Because the theater, that’s us. “The theater” is not just any building. It’s us. We break if we don’t really, really ask much. And our demands are nothing presumptuous, nothing aloof. They are a position with which one can go into a strong negotiating position. And the drastic consequences this narrative can have can be seen in the following figures:
You know that, according to statistics from the German Stage Association, around 50% fewer artists have produced 50% more productions, but for 50% less fees, in the last 30 years. Yes, you have to let that sink in for a moment. And that in a section that is actually represented by a union!
And when you hear these numbers like that, let them sink a bit, don’t you also think that we should urgently change our strategy? That it’s, damn it, about time we really should really, really, really ask a lot? That it is time that not only 4,700 members legitimize the demands of the GDBA, but all 18,000 NV-stage permanent employees? And if we take the guests who are busy with the NV stage with us, then we are already at 31,000 employees. And if we take the trainees and students with us, then we are already at 36,000. And if we take the 10,000 work-contractors with us, we have around 46,000 people who have very good reasons to join the union. These figures come from the 2018/2019 theater statistics of the German Stage Association.
Don’t you think that we should demand what we are entitled to, and have done so for a long time, in the topics of MONEY, TIME, PARTICIPATION and RESPECT! Despite Corona!
And especially because of Corona! Because of the Corona crisis, the relevance of culture, the helplessness of freelancers, the jungle for hybrid employees has never been as present as before! Never before I have read the profession „Actor / Actress“ on the website of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs – now people know that it is a job and not a hobby.
Our misery was looked at a lot in public. And we can, we must use that to our advantage. Before Corona we had legitimate reasons to ask a lot, now we have even more reasons to ask a lot. Because that is our mission as a union.
If publicly funded theaters are desired in this country, if cities and countries take our magic boxes as a matter of course, if they cannot imagine themselves without them, if they adorn themselves with them – then the PROVIDERS have a great responsibility for us. So it is not our problem that there is no money. We have to reject this claim, we have to say: “You want theater – then you have to spend money so that we can produce theater for you.” By the way, money is never just there. You have to calculate it, write it down, organize, demand, justify and define it as a budget item, e.g. through a tariff table of fees.
You have noticed: At Theater Bremen, a municipality that has always been poor, there has recently been a four-tier fee system for four differentiated professional groups. Entry fee for stage artists and the various stage masters: 3,000 €. The city of Bremen has priced this into the budget with the following position: “Avoiding precarious employment”.
So politicians and theater managers have not only recognized that our collective agreement creates precarious employment, but they have set out to find solutions. The theater will now receive a grant of € 300,000 for two years. Hopefully it will continue after that. By the way, the theater owes this interim success not least to the ensemble-network, of which I am the chairwoman. We accompanied this process in cooperation.
We see: So it works! And if that works in Bremen, why shouldn’t it work at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg!
I was really amazed when the head of the cultural department in the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture, Annette Schwander, described that you can of course pay reasonable fees if we present a collective agreement, which is fed into the state budget committee. Then nobody asks whether you can pay for it. It will be paid as a matter of course. Collective agreement is collective agreement.
And isn’t it our job as a union, even louder than it may already be, to ask how it actually happened that tens of billions of euros flowed into the development of East Germany but we still have theater in the company agreement?
So we have to ask a lot because, dear comrades, we are entitled to a lot! Because we supply this country with theater, opera and dance. Together with the independent scene, we are real experts: insider and specialists. The German theater and orchestra landscape may be declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. And part of this potential world cultural heritage is paid for like unskilled kitchen helpers and messengers. And, by the way, how should stage workers who are paid like kitchen helpers actually repay their student loan debts from their studies or training?
I would like to briefly tell you a little anecdote on the subject of “demands”. Four years ago, after a double performance of a children’s play, my close friend Johannes Lange and I raced from Oldenburg to Dortmund to experience the legendary Cooperative Day live. That was really exciting for us, because we had worked through the thick application book in preparation. Among other things, we submitted the application “five trial-free days after the premiere”. It is possible that others have submitted this application, too, but our one from Oldenburg was listed in the application book. Incidentally, it was application 66. The application comittee, which collects and sorts all applications, had recommended that the application be rejected. Reason: That is too much. Too much!!!
How did it happen that an application comittee of our union took up an employer position? Fortunately, the colleagues agreed in the discussion that you have to ask for five days to get three. Incidentally, this discussion can be read in the minutes. The application was then accepted AGAINST the recommendation of the application committee. We actually didn’t get five days off. Unfortunately not three either. But one. And one is better than none.
What do we learn from this: We were both right. The application comittee correctly anticipated that we would not get five. But without the application we would not have received one.
You know, people’s interest in knowing the manufacturing conditions for products or things is growing all the time. Fair trade – this also applies increasingly to us. And you know the audience loves us, admires us. Why don’t we take them with us as allies? Because our sharpest sword is public opinion. And why don’t we all carry a red flower in our hand after a performance? And then we say: “Yes, dear audience, now you are probably wondering why we are all holding a red flower in our hand? That’s because our union is negotiating the non-renewal protection for parents tomorrow. You must know, dear audience, that almost every year our contracts can be terminated for artistic reasons. And so parents can be not-extended for artistic reasons during parental leave, even though they were not on stage at all. Tonight you saw eight parents on this stage who together have ten children. In total, our theater has 53 children with parents who are affected by these contracts. “
And so here is my appeal: Ask a lot! Because I have the impression that our self-esteem has been scratched – and we have to get out of there! Why don’t we say: We not only need appropriate fees, but the ensembles also have to expand again and we need more staff. And as a goodie for these strong demands, there is also another demand – free of charge! Doesn’t cost a cent: non-renewal protection for all people in substitute positions, not just for chairmen and branch spokespersons.
Dear Comrades, I am competing here today with an agenda of modernization that recognizes the competence of the union, its achievements and the expertise of its members and which aims to rebuild many things. My main focus will be on the negotiations with the DBV, which have to be conducted strategically, consistently and clearly. We need a collective agreement for all artistic employees: inside our stages, which does justice to their responsibility, competence and performance. And on the other hand, we need more impact, i.e. more members. Because the more we grow, the more seriously we will be taken. The more relevant we are.
And in order to reach the artists, we as a union have to leave the gesture of alienated work behind, because alienated work is the opposite of art.
We have to be moved by the importance of art and culture in our society, by the importance of art for us personally, and for THAT we need modern working conditions.
And if you want to join that movement, then I ask for your trust to move into the future together.
Thank you very much.
I’m Lisa Jopt and I want to become president of our union Genossenschaft Deutscher Bühnenangehöriger – GDBA. I work as a freelance actress near Munich. Since 2016 I have initiated three different annual cultural-political conferences with various comrades-in-arms*, of which I am the artistic director: for example the Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung, a nationwide assembly of theater professionals, or Burning Issues, a conference for gender equality, diversity and inclusion. Here you can get a short look and feel about me as an actress.
*** Click here for the „application video“
GDBA asked me four questions – I answered
When I came to the Oldenburg State Theater in 2015, I realized that many problems can be solved through conversation, empathy and humor. This is especially true for all topics and problems about which most people said: „If you demand this, you will force theaters to shut down“. I have learned that the theaters do of course not break down. Rather, theater employees can be helped to achieve more justice, joy and quality of life. This has motivated me to think bigger and bigger each year.
As a logical consequence I now want to become president and use the knowledge and contacts of the last years’ work to become effective where our tariff and collective agreement are made: in the GDBA. We need a collective agreement that regulates fair payment, social protection, participation and working hours much more clearly. We also need collective agreements for the solo self-employed. We need visual communication that makes our goals comprehensible and motivates people to actively engage. The GDBA must abandon the gesture of alienated wage labour and show itself for what it is: a union of theater experts* in many fantastic trades who love theater and their professions.
Furthermore, I agree with the demand of the 1st Cooperative Day 1871 in Weimar: “ … (we need a) concession law to make the admission of theater directors dependent on their suitability and to protect the members of the stage from arbitrariness of the theater director“.
And by the way: I love the network dancersconnect.
3.000,- Euro minimum wage
Introduction a System of minimum wages by years in profession
Limitation of weekly working hours to max. 40 hours
Job-specific salary bonuses for preparation and training generally added on the monthly regular salary
Five rehearsal-free days after a premiere
Ensemble representatives should have a right to information in all questions of artistic and social planning, as well as a right to discussion and consultation in all organizational matters. They should be protected from non-renewal of their contracts during their term as a spokesperson as well as for up to two years afterwards ending this activity
Stop rehearsals on short notice calls. (Probe nach Ansage)
Stop the non-renewal of contracts when there’s a change of artistic directory
A severance pay of at least one annual salary in case of non-renewal of a contract due to a change of the artistic director
Compensation of childcare costs
Protection against non-renewal of contracts up to one year after the end of parental leave
These proposals are taken from the paper Ziele3000 of the ensemble-netzwerk.
Education. The GDBA needs a regularly exciting and modern educational institute that offers advanced training. E.g.: More NV-Bühne further education for ensembles & staff councils (as Adil Laraki already does), rights for professional groups, anti-racism workshops, guidelines and tips for freelancers, transition accompaniment for dancers*, guidelines and tips for self-employment for artists*, retirement provisions for dummies, financial accounting for hybrid employment relationships. It would also be conceivable that members could offer workshops themselves and thus earn something extra.
Networking-Party in Berlin. If you know how to fight, you must also know how to party. Once a year all members should meet on the fringes of the Theatertreffen in Berlin to network and celebrate. There is currently no format in which all GDBA members have the chance to meet. Not even at the Gdbas cooperative Day. At the Berlinale Movie Festival Berlin is bursting at the seams with parties and networking events. At the Theatertreffen however lost theater professionals have the feeling that they are not invited. Our industry get-together is supposed to be about a common identity and the energy it gives us.
Diversity. The needs of people with marginalized perspectives must be strengthened by the GDBA.
Departments. The professional groups ATuV, Opera Chorus, Solo & Dance must be organized in departments, so that colleagues with the same profession have the opportunity to exchange ideas, e.g. in online meetings. For example, make-up artists:innen, KBB employees:innen and opera singers:innen have the same NV-Solo, but very different professional needs.
English. We need more English content for international colleagues!
Union Meeting. The Union Meeting must take place every year, as provided for in the GDBA statutes. It is the highest body of organization in the Union and is currently only held every four years. We want to connect to the basis better and thus this needs to change.
Fairness. The differences in the collective bargaining treatment of collectives and soloists must be overcome. The GDBA has 199 choir members and about 3,300 soloists – but why do the choir members earn more than the soloists?
Young platform. We need a department/ organization for students and young professionals.
Cooperation. We are striving for cooperation with other associations, among other things to reduce the burden of multiple memberships.
Magazine. The „Bühnengenossenschaft“ has to become a cool magazine that you really look forward to once a month. It is a figurehead of the GDBA, is displayed in canteens and can thus generate new members.
Podcasts. Podcasts are an uncomplicated educational tool. I want to produce different podcasts that meet the needs of the members. For example „theater employees have questions – experts have answers“ or a podcast about „Diversity in culture and media“.
Stars in the GDBA – Why do mainly the colleagues of the small and medium-sized companies and freelancers fight for better working conditions? Why not the stars – The colleagues who are firmly in the saddle of the industry and have nothing to fear? Solidarity is a doing word! So join in and be welcomed! Do it not only for yourself bit for your prompter or your assistant director …
YouTube channel. I would like to establish a YouTube channel, where you can inform yourself about current topics and acquire basic know-how. The GDBA must become „more googleable“. Knowledge about rights and duties must be made more easily accessible.
After graduating from the HMT Leipzig with a diploma in acting in 2010 I was engaged at the Schauspiel Essen, the Oldenburgisches Staatstheater and the Schauspielhaus Bochum. I, thus, have first-hand lived experience with our tariff, the NV-Bühne. Since 2018 I am working as a freelancer and moved to live in Bavaria since 2019.
In 2015, together with former assistant director Johanna Lücke, I founded the „grassroots-movement from a kitchen table“ ensemble-netzwerk. A movement that is close to dancersconnect. Already within its fist year the movement gained a strong momentum so that in 2016 it developed into a non-profit, registered association with an eight-member board. Like the GDBA, the ensemble-netzwerk is committed to improve the working conditions at publicly funded theaters. Our NGO has professionalized itself continuously. Since 2018 we have an office in Berlin and four freelancers* working for us. We also grew to a number of nearly 900 members and are the mothership to 3 sub-networks: the junges ensemble-netzwerk, the regie-netzwerk and the dramaturgie-netzwerk. The theatreautor:innen-netzwerk, the assistent:innen-netzwerk and the BiPoc-netzwerk have also announced to launch their work under our roof.
As the chair-woman of the board I am known for my passion for bringing socio-political content into aesthetic form, for seeing allies instead of opponents in negotiating partners, and for moderating eight demanding and very individual colleagues equally and as a team. The many professions and free spirits that the theater unites under one roof are not only dear to my heart. They really inspire me. That’s why I have been active in the ensemble-netzwerk to ensure that we offer all professions a safe haven for the work of their interests. Theater work is complex – and thus you have to think it together.
You are not alone!
How did you get involved in the union?
Since my first employment at Schauspiel Essen I have been a member of the GDBA. We invited Jörg Löwer as a speaker at the first Konferenz Konkret in 2015 and he also sat on a panel at the first Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung (BEV) in 2016. In 2017 the regional chairwoman of the Nord Sabine Nolde spoke at the second BEV in Potsdam. In 2018 we invited Adil Laraki to be a guest of our panel discussion at the third BEV. At the last Konferenz Konkret Natalie Senf talked about the situation of theaters in East Germany. The GDBA has co-financed almost all conferences we have organized. In 2017, Johannes Lange and I went to Dortmund for the Cooperative Day, where we, as the local association of Oldenburg, prepared and submitted many applications. In 2018 I founded the local association at the Schauspielhaus Bochum.
Why did you found the ensemble-network?
Unfortunately, the language and aesthetics of the GBDA did not address and motivate us as young artists in 2015. Many of our colleagues did not know that the GDBA existed – let alone knew what the union does. We didn’t see our topics reflected there, such as Saturday rehearsals, fear, home office for dramaturgs, agent tables or child care. Johanna Lücke and I have achieved a lot as ensemble speakers in a short time on location in Oldenburg, such as reducing the Saturday rehearsals. This uncomplicated self-efficacy impressed us. So we asked the ensembles nationwide what they need to be able to work well artistically. The response was so overwhelming that it quickly became clear: We have to meet! This is why the ensemble-netzwerk was founded. In its political activism our network stands in relation to the union like Greenpeace stands in relation to the Green Party.
What do you like about the GDBA?
The members! The fact that the union has been around for so long proves to me in an impressive way that theater belongs to our cultural circle and that the fight for better conditions will always be worthwhile to emphasize our importance.
Why are you a member of ver.di?
At a general meeting in 2019 in Berlin, our members expressed their wish to get involved with the trade union ver.di. A common cliché is that ver.di wants to „swallow“ the GDBA. Or „flattens everything“ – in other words, wants to destroy the artistic, process-oriented work. But this is not the case. Ver.di presented us with the concept of „conditional trade union work“. This means that ver.di could negotiate the desired conditions for an ensemble (if the majority of them are members in Ver.di) that it considers appropriate. After this exciting meeting, I joined Ver.di to emphasize the seriousness of the exchange. I will soon end my membership at Ver.di for the candidacy for president of the GDBA. I will also terminate my membership in the BFFS.
What are your strengths In 3 words?
Energy, humor, speed
Your weaknesses in 3 words?
Impatience, red wine with cheese, coin pusher at the fair
About my political work
- Burning Issues meets Kampnagel / Hamburg
- Nomination for the Podcast Wofür es sich zu looosen lohnt
- Category „Innovative Format“ in the German Stage
- Rent in Times of Corona – fundraising campaign for Aktionsbündnis Darstellende Künste; collected over 100,000 € so far
- Campaign for the call-to-action “40,000 Letters”
- Fourth Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung / Volksbühne Berlin
- Fourth Konferenz Konkret
- Burning Issues meets Theatertreffen / Berlin
- Release Wofür es sich zu looosen lohnt Podcast with Johannes Lange
- Freelance work in Bavaria for TV, radio, dubbing and theater
- Perspective Award of the Deutsche Bühnenverein for the call-to-action “40.000”
- Campaign for the call-to-action “40,000 meetings”
- Opening of the ensemble-netzwerk office in Berlin
- Foundation of the Rumpel Pumpel Theater
- Triptych on the contemporary issues of the performing arts / Triptychon zur Gegenwart der Darstellenden Künste
- Third Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung
- Conference of Theatre Students junges ensemble-netzwerk
- Parade of the Performing Arts
- Burning Issues – 1st conference of female theater professionals with Nicola Bramkamp / Theater Bonn
- Ensemble member at the Schauspielhaus Bochum
- Campaign for the call-to- action “40,000 theater employees meet their political representatives”
- Second Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung/ Hans-Otto-Theater Potsdam
- Third Konferenz Konkret
- Ensemble member at the Oldenburg State Theater
- The ensemble-netzwerk becomes a registered, non-profit association
- First Bundesweite Ensemble-Versammlung/ Theater Bonn
- Second Konferenz Konkret / Borgholzhausen
- Ensemble member at the Oldenburg State Theater
- First Konferenz Konkret with Sascha Kölzow
- Founding of the ensemble-netzwerk with Johanna Lücke
- Ensemble member at the Oldenburg State Theater
- Ensemble member at the Schauspiel Essen, admission to the GDBA
- Diploma in acting at the HMT „Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy“ Leipzig