14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2020 — They were supposed to receive their furlough pay on July 15. Instead, thousands of artists have gone unpaid during the month of June because of a supposed “lack of money”. With their employment tied to a sector of the economy that has been paralyzed by the pandemic, those affected by this situation had been receiving 60% of their previous salary. However, sources from within the industry have told 14ymedio that they will now have to wait until at least August 1.
In April of this year, Marta Elena Feitó Cabrera, the Employment Minister, reassured workers employed by the state that they would receive 100% of their salary during the first month they were unable to work, a figure which would decrease to 60% in subsequent months. However, singers, comedians, dancers, actors and circus performers have all joined forces to criticise the lack of payment for the month of June.
Artists employed by la Empresa comercializadora de la Música y los Espectáculos Adolfo Guzmán (The Marketing Company for Music and Entertainment “Adolfo Guzmán”), la Agencia de Espectáculos Artísticos TurArte (The Agency for Entertainment Events “TurArte”) and la Empresa Provincial de la Música y los Espectáculos Ignacio Piñeiro are among those worst affected by the delay in payments. Each of the entities has justified the delay in complying with its duties by claiming a lack of resources or issues with bureaucracy.
The most seriously affected artists work in what is known as the “régimen comercial” (“commercial arrangement”). Generally speaking, these workers negotiate their own contracts, with the company representing them taking a 15% cut on their earnings. Elsewhere, workers receive a fixed salary whether they perform for the public or not. These are known as the “régimen subvencionado” (“subsidized arrangement”). Older artists, troubadours loyal to the government and folk groups are usually employed in this second category.
With events being cancelled and the borders closed to international tourism, artists have found themselves in a precarious position during the last few months. They include Carlos, a musician who no longer receives the extra money he previously earned while giving performances at nightlife venues: “I asked around in my company and they told me that they didn’t know whether any payments would be made this month. How are we supposed to eat if the schedule has been cancelled?”
Normally, artists employed in the “régimen comercial” would not receive a fixed wage. However, on April 6 of this year, the Consejo Nacional de las Artes Escénicas (the National Council of Performing Arts) and the Instituto de la Música (The Institute of Music) jointly announced that they would provide financial assistance to all those working in the entertainment industry regardless of their employment contract. A tax holiday was also announced for those employed in the commercial sector.
Lázaro lives by his guitar. At the weekend, he accompanies a singer to play boleros, guarachas and other traditional music on the terrace of an important hotel in the Playa district of Havana. Until a few months ago, he could be found playing timeless classics like Nosotros, El cuarto de Tula and Dos Gardenias week after week. However, the pandemic has left him without any work.
“There was rarely a night when I didn’t return home with 30 or 40 Cuban pesos in tips from patrons. You might say that I had quite a high standard of living that allowed me to buy and to do pretty much whatever I wanted. The problem is, I wasn’t able to save for the difficult times because I also financially support my mother, my wife and my two kids”, Lázaro explained to this publication. “In the blink of an eye, everything ground to a halt and I now depend on the money I receive from the company. So, this delay has got me treading water”.
Until very recently, Lázaro was able to travel via taxi, afford an annual holiday in a national hotel and even go on a trip to Cancún with his wife. Now, this has all changed: “I simply cannot wait until August 1 because I have debts to pay, and in my household there isn’t even money to buy food”, the guitarist lamented.
The story hasn’t changed much: In recent years, delays or non-payments in the music industry have been frequent, becoming prevalent enough to see the figures included in the official press at the end of 2019. The current situation makes one inclined to think that nothing will be changing anytime in the near future.
Translated by: Andy Barton
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