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March 23, 2023

Arts workers protest culture budget cuts. Iohannis: I’m with artists protesting drastic cuts of culture institutions’ budgets countrywide

Several hundreds of actors and arts workers protested on Sunday in Victoriei Square in front of the Government Palace, unhappy with the budget cuts that affect the cultural sector; the protesters carried placards with messages reading “#Dignity,” “Censorship is out, but we are not better off,” “Culture today, everybody’s turn tomorrow,” “A nation without culture is easy to manipulate.”

“This is a protest against the budget cuts that greatly harm the entire cultural sector. Up until now, the independent structures had mostly taken the brunt, but now this is expanding to public structures and institutions. Basically, it’s impossible for state-owned theaters to decently carry on with certain activities and this puts indispensable professionals – technicians, dressers, prop stagehands – in an extremely precarious situation, and affects all the contributors who haven’t been paid for months now,” said playwright Mihaela Mihailov.

Acting great Victor Rebengiuc said that the budget cuts prevent him from properly doing his job. “If they sack my colleagues who work alongside me on the stage (…), the ones who set up the lights, the sound of a show, if they are no longer there, what shall we do?,” the actor said, adding that those who will be laid off from the Bucharest National Theater are stagehands “who are absolutely necessary for building and performing a show.” He also deplored the present condition of the young artists who stand meagre chances to land employment, as there are already about 4,000, if not 5,000 jobless young theater school graduates.

The picture will be grim this autumn, Rebengiuc said. “If the National Theater has scrapped seven premieres and is only able to do one, because that’s all the available money can cover (…), things look dramatic. (…) The theater still has money for salaries, but opera houses are out even of these funds,” the actor said.

Actor Mihai Calin joined in to add that the budget cuts operated at the institutions under the authority of the Culture Ministry – national theaters, opera houses, national museums – have first hit the technical staff in absence of whom the artistic act is impossible.

According to actor Marius Manole (photo), things are pretty serious at the Bucharest National Theater which was forced, due to budget cuts, to lay off 57 people from the technical department. “We are here to protest what is happening to the culture of our country. (…) In 29 years, no government has had a serious, deep-going reform of this sector as a priority, or at least on a list of priorities. We are calling on the Minister of Culture, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to disburse the money – given that we are on an upward economic trend, otherwise I’ll understand that this is a revenge for the actors having taken to the streets whenever it was necessary, like in the case of the justice laws, or the government emergency ordinances,” Manole commented.

Actor and musician Tudor Chirila says that the Labor Code is not an umbrella for everyone. “The labor code protects labor contracts on an indefinite period, but not also the contracts for self-employed persons or copyright contracts, which are now under scrutiny for pay cuts. (…) It is a matter of urgency that these contracts be also introduced under the Labor Code, or, taking by the French model, set a kind of private vendor contract in place,” Tudor Chirila said.


Iohannis: I’m with artists protesting drastic cuts of culture institutions’ budgets countrywide


President Klaus Iohannis on Sunday said he is with the artists protesting the “drastic cuts of the culture institutions’ budgets”, adding that this field reached “last” of the fields.

“Instead of enjoying this priceless resource, we are called to defend the Romanian culture from bankruptcy. The disaster in culture was induced by this incompetent gov’t through the national disgrace budget, built on false figures,” Iohannis wrote on his Facebook page.

“The artists and the culture bodies need our solidarity. They serve and represent our cultural heritage,” the president added.

The Culture and National Identity minister Daniel Breaz said he will send the ministry’s watchdog to the Bucharest National Theatre and added he asked the TNB manager to spend the money responsibly and think five times when signing a contract, if “the public money really deserve to be spent”.

The TNB manager, actor Ion Caramitru on Friday said unhappy with the fact that the theatre’s budget was approved late, having the “Goods and services” chapter slashed.

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