Open Letter - Against Undisclosed Salaries
by Evening Class

Dear

If You Could Jobsboard
Arts Council England / Arts Jobs
Creative Scotland
Arts Council of Wales
The Guardian
Dezeen
Jobs for artists (fb group)
Linkedin & Linkedin jobs board
Bloomberg
Design Observer
Creative Applications
University of the Arts London Alumni / Creative Opportunities
YCN
Peas
Represent / designjobsboard
Alumni / University Jobsboards

etc


Unpaid work and internships are increasingly unacceptable within the creative industries – and rightly so: they prioritise those who can afford to work for free, in turn decreasing opportunities for those from less privileged backgrounds. This shift has lead to organisations, websites and jobs boards refusing to promote unpaid or voluntary labour. We welcome this, as institutions have a responsibility to take steps towards implementing or maintaining ethical practice in their recruiting processes.


However: we, the undersigned, call for the removal of all instances where salary expectations are not listed within the job description, in order to continue moving towards a more progressive, representative and fair work environment.


Studios, agencies, institutions and companies have become increasingly savvy at omitting wage information. When scrolling through jobs boards, notice what follows the word ‘salary’:


‘Dependent on experience’,

‘Competitive’,

‘To be confirmed’,

‘Negotiable’.


We know too well from experience that these phrases have become linguistic loopholes that allow prospective employers to undercut and devalue the labour of its potential workforce. The balance of power lies with the employer; a precarious applicant is unlikely to ask on their first (or subsequent) interview/s what the salary is. Applicants are more likely to be nervous to acquire a job at any cost which is exacerbated by rising living costs, increased levels of student debt, and so on.


‘Dependent on experience’ implies that the applicant’s level of experience will be evaluated and validated by the employer (while elements of this exchange are unavoidable, we are disputing the conversion of one’s experience into an as-yet-to-be-determined wage, as opposed to translating one’s experience into how eligible or capable you are to do a job which is listed at an already-described wage). Furthermore, the process through which such a valuation will be worked out is not transparent and never explained. More often than not, it simply provides an opportunity for wages to be depreciated by the employer or for them to hedge their bets.


‘Dependent on experience’ also amplifies prevalent dynamics of academic snobbery by employers – whose judgment is based not just on what qualification you achieved, but on a set of assumptions surrounding what university you attended.


‘Competitive’ is a peculiar proposition, given the widespread lack of salary transparency. Is this competitiveness pegged to your cost of living? Or to average salaries for your age and past experience in your chosen field? Or based on your personal level of wealth? Or on whether you support or care for other people in your life? Or, is it simply wildly flexible and subjective?


‘Competitive’ also alludes to the prevalent atmosphere within today’s increasingly insecure work environments: many people are in competition for a decreasing number of positions. When job prospects are presented and described as ‘competitive’, candidates are being tacitly encouraged to undercut one another, and to be in opposition to your peers becomes common practice. Perhaps this is unsurprising, when a similar pattern of behaviour is favoured between students within the academy.


‘To be confirmed’: how long does one need? How convenient for the employer that confirmation of salary can come at the end of the interview process. The question therefore arises: why are employers listing jobs when they don’t know what they can afford to pay?


‘Negotiable’ is insidious, as it suggests a rebalancing of power is possible, with the prospective employee being able to push for a higher salary. However, the ability for someone to be able to negotiate their salary is also 'dependent on experience'. Graduates just out of university should not be expected to be experienced enough to be able to 'negotiate' a fair wage. The possibility of being listened to, or being successful when negotiating, is again subject to gender, race, and class privileges – particularly when there is no initial figure to negotiate with. Obfuscating mandatory information within a job specification intensifies the latent hierarchy between employee and employer. This reinforces instability and confusion, which disavows any agency that should be afforded the employee.


This is especially a problem in the creative industries, where there is little to no regulation and many informal arrangements, and different levels of power-related information gatekeeping. Our accumulative frustration – applying, reapplying, interviewing, re-interviewing, exchanging emails (or lack thereof), portfolio reviews, networking, and free work – has resulted in a scenario where we have been seated across from our potential employer, exhausted and apprehensive to raise anything related to remuneration, for fear of compromising our chances.


It is time to alleviate this unnecessary stress and exploitation. We demand clear and transparent pay scales be made available before interview. Remove or amend all future job listings that don't provide important fiscal information, that should already be known to employers, yet is purposefully hidden on a vague need-to-know basis, instead of mandatory. By doing this, we can continue to dismantle precarity together.

Signed,

Evening Class

Precarious Workers Brigade

Architectural Workers

4Day Week Campaign

The Entreprecariat

Will Stronge (co-founder of Autonomy Institute)

wrkwrkwrk

Keep it Complex

Art Exit

Get Artists Paid

The Southland Institute

Call Me Intern

Pervasive Labour Union

PACTO

Artists' Union England (AUE)

The Pluralist



See also


http://www.artistsunionengland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/HERE.pdf

http://www.sau.org.uk/documents/updated_rates_of_pay_guidance_201617.pdf

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/are-you-earning-the-right-amount/ (there is a paywall)

http://www.represent.uk.com/files/SS_RESULTS.pdf

https://static.a-n.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Guidance_on_fees_and_day_rates_for_visual_artists_2018.pdf



Responses

https://goo.gl/oQtNAi




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