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Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle: Workers’ Protest Letters cont’d (Warsaw, Poland)

October 26, 2013

For more background on this case please see:  Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle: Workers’ Protest Letters and Open Letter to the Workers and Publics of CCA Ujazdowski Castle from the Winter Holiday Camp Working Group

____________________________________________________________

 

 

Warsaw, September 25, 2013

 

Janusz Byszewski,

Head of the 667th Company Branch of the

Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarność

Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle

Jazdów 2, 00-467 Warsaw

 

 

Dear Sir,

 

In your letter dated September 16, 2013 you presented a number of accusations concerning the way the CCA is managed. I have the impression that some of them are the result of misunderstandings, quite possibly pertaining to the troubles with communication which you previously mentioned. I shall try to address the majority of the issues you noted, however, I am aware that resolving this matter would require a longer time, as well as meetings and discussions which, I hope, would eventually lead to an understanding and agreement.

As far as I understand, your primary concern is the financial situation of the CCA. Indeed, having analyzed the budget after the first six months of my work we came to the conclusion that our expected revenue is 25 % lower, a situation in which a correction in planning was in order. As you know, the CCA has always relied on various sources of funding, including public funding, partners representing other countries (embassies and culture institutions), private sponsors as well as parties relying on the commercial use of our premises. The current drop of income results from a broader range of phenomena pertaining to the economic crisis. The decisions I made in this situation are dictated by reason and do not endanger the functioning of the institution: some projects have been scaled down, others were rescheduled for the following year, while the CCA still has many tasks on its hands until the end of this year.

A different set of problems you have addressed is the issue of communication and the related matter of a lack of information regarding our plans. I would like to note that, since the beginning of this year, we have held six meetings with curators, all of which concerned the plans for 2014. The program was prepared with the curators. Those of you involved in respective projects have already commenced work on them. We will, however, work on the communication system. I hereby declare my intention to propose specific solutions which would permanently improve communication with the Team.

I agree with you as far as the need for the evaluation of the projects is concerned: both the Green Jazdów project, as well as other activities pursued by the CCA. As is known, no official practice of this sort has been pursued to this date: we have been using factors such as attendance or reviews, whereas I think it would be useful to create more comprehensive mechanisms of evaluation. We all know that the task is not a simple one, as it concerns the delicate matter of cultural projects, many of which involve experimentation, but I would be glad to work towards developing an evaluation system.

You also address issues related to employment. Indeed, the CCA has recently welcomed a few new faces, mostly young people. However, they need to learn a lot and gain experience before they can be entrusted with real responsibility. In the meantime they work under the supervision of myself, deputy directors, and other more experienced staff members. I admit that the number of people coming and going is relatively large, but I can only say that, to a certain extent, it is related to the high expectations I have of my co-workers. Nonetheless I am confident that the CCA team will grow to permanently include valuable individuals who will soon be able to carry out even the most difficult tasks.

Certain difficulties, stemming from changes in employment structure, are characteristic of the processes taking place in institutions and necessitate defining new positions and tasks, as well as changes in the structure of the CCA departments. In the near future we shall discuss with you the matter of the Organizational Regulations, and it is my hope that introducing it will have a positive impact on the organization of work at the CCA.

On this occasion, I would like to note that the fact the supplemental payroll fund was depleted is also related to our extensive activity connected to programming, which calls for collaboration with many individuals, including artists, as well as persons directly involved in carrying out artistic projects.

One of the departments in which – as you noted – these difficulties have been particularly manifest is the department of Promotion and Fundraising, which practically did not exist before. Introducing new individuals to work which, above all, requires extensive contacts, takes time. At this moment I am absolutely optimistic as far as the development of this department is concerned. The recently hired persons tackle their tasks very well. At the same time, Lara Facco, whom you also mentioned, is, on the one hand, assisting us in the reorganization of the department, and on the other, works on communicating the actions of the CCA internationally. This work will result in greater recognition of our institution in Europe and, in consequence, facilitate our collaboration with partners abroad as well as improve our chances for securing sponsorship among international corporations. Simply put, it is an investment which will pay off.

It is by no means my intention to marginalize the role of education in the work of the CCA, to the contrary, I believe it to be one of the fundamental tasks of this institution. Apart from two educational departments at the CCA operating on a regular basis, a whole number of other initiatives falls within this category. These include conferences, lectures, publications, and guided tours. The actual costs incurred by the institution with respect to education are far greater than the running costs of both of the aforementioned departments.

In conclusion, I would like briefly to address the matter of the costs of the BBPP [British British Polish Polish] exhibition. Being a very extensive exhibition, it occupies a space typically used by three separate exhibitions. Its cost was initially estimated at c.a. 800.000 zloty, yet we expected a greater involvement on the part of the British as well as other sources of funding. Unfortunately, we failed to secure all the expected funds and I was forced to take the decision to increase funding of the exhibition on the part of the CCA. As I already noted in the beginning, this fact involved the difficult decision to cancel or scale down certain other projects this year.

As I have already mentioned, I am ready for further talks. It is my hope that together we can develop a plan which will be a solution to the present situation of the CCA. Having taken all of your comments seriously, I hope for a constructive dialog.

Pursuant to today’s conversation, we will propose a list of matters to be discussed and agree on a date for a meeting upon your return, after October 6 this year.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Fabio Cavallucci

 

To the attention:

Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski

Minister of Culture and National Heritage

 

Mr. Zenon Butkiewicz

Director of the Department for National Cultural Institutions

Minister of Culture and National Heritage

 

____________________________________________________________

 

Warsaw, October 4, 2013

667th Company Branch of the Independent

Self-governing Trade Union Solidarność

at the Center for Contemporary Art

Ujazdowski Castle

Jazdów 2, 00-467 Warsaw

 

Mr. Fabio Cavallucci

Director

CCA Ujazdowski Castle

 

Dear Sir,

 

We would like to thank you for your reply to our letter of September 16. At the same time we would like to express our deep disappointment over its content.

We hoped that our note would make you aware that the CCA found itself in serious crisis – a crisis of funding, leadership, trust, as well as programming. Whereas you refer to this ongoing crisis at the CCA as a “misunderstanding” and downplay its causes, suggesting they lie in “troubles with communication”. There are currently no troubles with communication at the CCA whatsoever, as there is no communication between you and the staff. On many occasions you made decisions against the judgment of the whole programming team. You frequently demonstrated your disregard for the opinion, effort, time, and competence of the CCA staff, claiming that the employees of our institution are primarily concerned with causing you trouble and hindering your march towards… what  precisely? Thus far you failed to “communicate” to us even the final program for the end of 2013, not to mention 2014.

“Misunderstanding” is out of the question – we perfectly understand your strategy of management of the CCA and this is precisely why we do not agree with it. These methods must change. Regrettably, it is impossible to consider your letter as a harbinger of such change.

You expressed your hope that “together we can develop a plan which will be a solution to the present situation of the CCA”. We are cannot share this hope any longer. In your response, as well as in your statements for the media, you denied the fact that any conflict existed at the CCA, suggesting that the problem of discontent concerns a handful of individuals, mostly curators, whose projects were cancelled or rescheduled. We also know that you have already received the memorandum from the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), whose members expressed solidarity with our situation and put forward their own – very long – list of objections and charges concerning the methods of management and working conditions you created. We hope that this document made you aware that the problem does not concern a mere handful of “frustrated individuals”. The members of the Alliance of Trade Unions and Solidarność constitute the majority of the CCA staff – and their number would have been even higher if the employees on “precarious contracts”, whom you hired, could join a trade union. You should open your eyes to the fact that the discontent is widespread – a fact which you would have known if you had been in contact with your team, instead of treating it as a “pool of human resources” at your disposal.

As long as you deny the existence of the conflict, there is no way we can resolve it together. How does one resolve a conflict that allegedly does not exist? As long as you do not accept the fact that we are in crisis, there is no way it can be overcome.

Your first reaction to the outburst of an open conflict at the CCA was not a dialog with the staff, instead you chose to call a PR expert, Mr. Max Fuzowski from the company Business & Culture, for help. Let us consider this gesture symptomatic of your present attitude. Instead of working on solving the problems at the CCA, you focused on developing a strategy of improving your public image. If you intend to communicate with the staff through a hired PR person, we can assure you: this is not the way! We will never communicate this way.

We urge you to cease excusing the financial problems of the CCA with the global financial crisis. We cannot reach an agreement as long as you use such arguments. We would also like to once again stress with respect to this year’s budget that the CCA has not received such high funding from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in years. Our problems do not result from the global crisis, but from the lack of a clear development strategy for the coming years, lack of realistic and thought-out methods of programming, and from the chaotic employment policy (stemming from the inability to create the promised new organizational structure over the last three years) as well as ill-considered expenses.

We are thus unable to treat your letter as a satisfactory answer to our objections and concerns. You have declared that you are ready to engage in a dialog. We would be glad to commence it, on the condition that you will address the issues we mentioned, this time seriously.

 

Head of the 667th Company Branch of the

Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarność

 

Janusz Byszewski

 

To the attention:

Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski

Minister of Culture and National Heritage

 

Mr. Zenon Butkiewicz

Director of the Department for National Cultural Institutions

Minister of Culture and National Heritage

 

____________________________________________________________

 

Demands of the staff of the CCA Ujazdowski Castle. October 8, 2013.

 

WE DEMAND!

  1. That the financial situation of the CCA and its strategy of financial management be presented in a clear manner.
  2. That fair working conditions, as defined by the Labor Code, be returned to the CCA, and that the staff members are treated with proper respect rather than as “implements”.
  3. That the CCA abandon its extremely centralized methods of management and organization as they are not successful in an institution which has the ambition to create vital culture.
  4. That the artists who contribute to the CCA program be paid fees.
  5. That the organizational chaos which has existed at the institution for three years, and which results from an unclear division of tasks and means, cease.
  6. That the strenuous coming and going of the staff be stopped by putting an end to unjustified dismissals and the hiring of new staff without clearly appointed duties. This makes it impossible to create an effective team.
  7. That the institution no longer be run with the use of repression, orders, and threats. These should be abandoned for the sake of a culture of dialog, participation, and genuine involvement.
  8. That the messages created by the CCA be communicated professionally and honestly, allowing for critical debate. We demand clear messages addressed to the public and the media instead of a propaganda of success created with “information noise”.
  9. That exhibitions and other art projects be planned in advance, allowing for effective fundraising, promotion, and implementation.
  10. That the CCA return to its democratic decision-making processes and professional debate over programming, as well as evaluating its projects within the board of curators.
  11. That different art media and genres, as well as the different fields of the CCA’s activity be treated equally, in compliance with the interdisciplinary program of this institution.
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