Questions about the collective bargaining agreement on working time
Since October 2022, the collective bargaining parties have initially been moving towards each other and working together on a new working time model (framework model) that would ensure both the protection of employees from overwork and the flexibility of the artistic production process.
During the negotiation process, we repeatedly addressed the concerns of the German Stage Association (DBV) with compromise proposals. However, at the negotiation round on April 25, the DBV withdrew progress already made, whereupon we interrupted the negotiations.
In the last negotiation on June 27, there was again no progress because the DBV, after repeated requests, was not able to show the unions specifically why the framework model was not practical.
For the current round of negotiations, the collective bargaining parties have set their sights on the issue of working hours. Up to now, the NV Bühne has only defined a weekly working time in the special stage technology regulation, which currently amounts to 40 hours. In the special regulations for opera choir and dance (group) there are binding regulations only with regard to maximum rehearsal durations and rest periods to be observed. In the special regulation for soloists, which covers many very different professions, only the restrictions of the Working Hours Act apply, with the exception of a few collectively agreed requirements (4 hours rest before a performance).
From the point of view of the Bühnenverein and the trade unions, the regulation of working hours has become necessary for different reasons: Theaters, like all employers, are legally obligated to allow their employees to work part-time, and also to record daily working hours. It is therefore in the common interest of the parties to the collective agreement to create a basis for this in the interests of all concerned. In addition, the unions are also concerned to shape these working time regulations with the aim of finally achieving relief and predictability for the employees.
Here you can find our demands in detail.
Click here for the recording of the members' meeting on March 20, in which the collective bargaining committee presented the demands on the topic of "working time", including the new framework model.
The framework model records the working time provided by the employees. This is done in predefined time frames of usually four hours, similar to how this is already regulated at many theaters through company agreements and it is also reflected in the weekly and monthly schedules. As a rule, full-time employees should be available to the theater for two frames on a workday, e.g., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For days on which final rehearsals or performances take place, flexible exception rules shall apply.
In order to also reflect independent work not instructed by the employer, such as text learning, voice care, research, rehearsal preparation and follow-up, etc., the theater may only instruct seven hours of work within these 2 x 4 hours. The eighth hour is trust work time.
Important: If you are available for an average of 10 frames of 4 hours per week, you fulfill the obligations of a full-time position, regardless of whether and to what extent this work time is actually called upon by the employer, i.e. whether you are staffed large or small, for example.
The collective bargaining parties agreed that staff who do not work predominantly on rehearsals and performances, i.e. "according to a daily schedule", should be excluded from the framework model. For these employees from dramaturgy, KBB, marketing, theater pedagogy, etc., the work would be recorded by the hour as in the special regulation stage technology (BT). We therefore propose to combine these professions with the special regulation BT into a new special regulation Equipment, Technology and Office (ATuB) and demand a weekly working time of 39 hours for these employees analogous to the TVöD. This area has not yet been negotiated in detail.
The Bühnenverein has always spoken of performers in connection with the framework model. The question of whether, and in what way, the framework model should also be applied to non-performing but nevertheless predominantly rehearsal and performance-related professions such as assistants, stage managers, soufflage, correpetitioners, etc., unfortunately had to be postponed for the time being, even though it is precisely these employees who are among the most stressed colleagues and thus particularly in need of protection. For this reason, we can only discuss the performers in more detail in the following. The relief of the assistants, for example, remains an important goal of the trade unions.
The unions have suggested that for final rehearsals or performances for which a four-hour frame is not sufficient, this frame can be extended. To do this, an adjacent frame would have to be shortened accordingly. If, for example, a frame were to be extended to five hours for a performance including make-up and disassembly time (for make-up removal, changing, showering if necessary), then rehearsals in the morning could be one hour shorter.
If rest periods are taken into account, as they are currently stipulated in the NV Bühne for opera choir and dance group and in some houses in company agreements also for soloists, then the shortening of the morning frame would already result from this.
Unfortunately, the German Stage Association was unwilling or unable to provide concrete examples of which artistic production processes would be prevented in the jointly developed framework model. The employer side did not respond to the unions' proposal to be able to extend the duration of a framework flexibly according to artistic demands. Instead, it assumes that for every rehearsal or performance that exceeds a four-hour frame, another full third frame is immediately necessary, regardless of whether it is actually fully utilized or only a small fraction.
For a rehearsal and performance day, as is common theater practice, two frames of varying length would be necessary under the more flexible practice-oriented model of the unions, but a full three frames under the rigid model of the Bühnenverein. In addition, the DBV has insisted that artists should be allowed to rehearse for more than four hours in the morning before a performance that does not exceed four hours, including make-up and dressing time. The unions reject this. Such a disposition contradicts the lived practice of most theaters, which is why the artistic necessity for such an overload cannot be presented.
Once three frames have been scheduled for a day, the artists:inside can be assigned by the theater to work at will during the reserved 12 hours up to the legally permissible 10 hours. There is therefore virtually no guaranteed free time on these days, for which, for example, no childcare has to be provided. The perceived flexibility of the theater, to be able to dispose of the artists extensively at short notice, is contrasted by the massive restriction of the employees.
We want to allow exceptions for extraordinary situations and formats, where this is artistically necessary. However, declaring rare exceptions to be the rule is not something we can do.
The unions had demanded that overtime, i.e. a third frame a day, be compensated within four weeks. This is intended to put a stop to ongoing overwork in the interests of health protection.
The Bühnenverein insists on a compensation period of an entire season and thus even falls short of the general requirements of the Working Hours Act, which generally prescribes compensation within six months or 24 weeks.
For a possible earlier compensation of special peak loads, the DBV has brought a so-called "traffic light model" into play, which in our view, however, does not offer sufficient protection, since additional loads could still be pushed forward for many months, provided they remain below a certain maximum value.
From our point of view, the compensation period must be set in such a way that it meets the requirements of the artistic production processes without putting undue strain on the health and social life of the employees and thus ultimately also impairing their artistic performance.
Of course not. The Bühnenverein's statement that our goal is to abolish ensemble and repertory theater is an absurd insinuation. On the contrary, we consistently advocate the preservation of theaters and their permanent ensembles.
But do our demands result in the abolition of ensemble and repertory theater as collateral damage? No, not even that.
At many theaters, there are already regulations, e.g. in company agreements, on fixed rehearsal periods, maximum rehearsal durations, compensation periods for additional workload, etc., which limit the workload for artists. At these theaters, the introduction of the framework model would hardly change the disposition. Conversely, the Bühnenverein likes to cite such positive examples as justification for the fact that there is not such a great need for regulation.
However, there are also theaters where employees are constantly overworked, and the theater operations in their current form are firmly based on the fact that artists are deployed to the limits of their capacity and beyond, to the extent permitted by law. We want to change this situation. Theaters that are already doing it better today show that it can be done differently.
If individual theaters should nevertheless be endangered by better protection of artistic employees, this is neither our goal nor the responsibility of the unions or the employees in need of protection. The responsibility for maintaining the theaters under modern, reasonable and healthy working conditions lies with the theater managements and, above all, the owners.
The BFFS, GDBA and VdO unions have always been and continue to be interested in constructive and solution-oriented negotiations. At the same time, we are skeptical based on our experiences in recent negotiations and also in workshops with the German Stage Association - both in terms of the employers' willingness to reach an agreement and the workshop format.
If it becomes apparent that both sides are now prepared to engage constructively and objectively with working time regulations - also with the aim of achieving more relief and predictability for the artists - and their binding nature is guaranteed, we would not close our minds to moderation. However, since neither of these has been apparent to us so far, we are now examining and planning other ways to achieve a real improvement in the working conditions of stage artists.
The unions are now discussing internally and planning mobilization actions for the next season.
Collective bargaining usually involves more than 20 people. Finding common dates for most of them is a challenge. Most work on a voluntary basis, which makes it difficult to arrange meeting times.
There is a great need for reform at the NV Stage. The many complex issues can only be dealt with gradually. We are hurrying and working internally under great pressure.
Questions about the adjustment negotiations
For all NV Bühne employees in the TVöD sector, the salary will increase by a basic amount of € 200 as of March 1, 2024 and then by 5.5 %.
For NV Bühne employees in the solo and stage technology areas who have already benefited directly from the increase in the minimum fee as of January 1, 2023, i.e. whose fee in December 2022 was less than € 2,715, the new fee will be calculated on the basis of the December 2022 fee.
For NV Bühne employees in the solo and BT area who are in their first three years of employment and move to another stage of the German Stage Association between August 1, 2023 and February 29, 2024, the fees will increase by a base amount of €35 and then by 5.5%.
The starting and minimum salaries in the TVöD sector will also increase by the basic amount of € 35 and then by a further 5.5%. The starting salary will therefore increase from € 2,715 to € 2,900 and the minimum salary from € 2,915 to € 3,110.
For employees in the TV-L and TV-H sectors, the adjustment negotiations are still pending, as ver.di has only just reached an agreement for the TV-L and will not negotiate the TV-H until February.
We are also calling for inflation compensation for guests.
Employees in the opera chorus and dance groups in the TvöD sector will receive € 200 + 5.5%. The tables will also increase by € 200 + 5.5%.
The Bühnenverein has flatly rejected the demanded inflation compensation for guests and freelancers. The union will nevertheless present its elaborated proposals and will not only continue to raise the demand, but will consider giving it emphasis with appropriate measures. However, guests also benefit directly through the automatic increase in their minimum pay for rehearsals and performances through the tariff adjustment
NV Bühne employees at theaters where the TVöD applies receive the following inflation compensation:
One-off payments of €1,240 in June and €220 per month from July to February (tax and social security contribution-free). These amounts are paid net.
- June = 1,240€ one-time payment
- July = 220€
- August = 220€
- September = 220€
- October = 220€
- November = 220€
- December = 220€
- January '24 = 220€
- February '24 = 220€
The federal government has allowed employers to pay out EUR 3,000 to each employee tax- and duty-free until the end of 2024 as compensation for the increased cost of living. Theaters also do not have to pay social security contributions on the amount. The payment is not a government benefit; the employer must raise it himself.
TVöD is the collective bargaining agreement for the public sector in the federal and municipal areas and thus the legal basis for the employment relationships of employees.
The TVöD regulates the details of the employment relationship from the conclusion of the contract to general working conditions, working hours, social benefits, allowances, hoilidays and termination of the employment relationship.
There are two versions of the TVöD: the TVöD-Bund for the federal government and the TVöD-VKA for municipal employers and employees. The regulations for West and East-Germany are the same.
NV Bühne employees at the theaters where the TV-L applies will have to be patient a little longer, the ver.di union has only just reached an agreement; negotiations for employees in the TV-H area of application will take place in February 2024. According to NV Bühne § 12a, the salaries for NV Bühne employees will be adjusted accordingly, depending on what ver.di has negotiated. For the TV-L area, the artists' unions will negotiate this adjustment before Christmas.
Since 01.09.2023, the entry-level salary only applies to employees in their 1st and 2nd year of employment. In addition, a new level will be introduced for employees from the 3rd year of their career - they will then receive € 2,915. This salary level will then be the new minimum salary.
From March 1, the starting salary will rise to € 2,900 and the minimum salary to € 3,110 at theaters where the TVöD applies. For theaters where the TV-L applies, the increase in the minimum salary will be negotiated before Christmas, for TV-H from February 2024.
The minimum wage increase from €2,000 to €2,550 and then to €2,715 agreed in 2022 has already greatly benefited newcomers to the profession compared to those who have been employed for longer. It was a negotiated condition between the trade unions and the German Stage Association that this group would now have to sit out a round of increases.
In return, it was possible to negotiate that the minimum and entry-level pay be dynamized earlier on March 1 than originally planned.
Questions on pay
Since September 1, the minimum salary in the special regulations for solo and stage technology (BT) has been € 2,915 for employees from the 3rd year of employment. For employees in their 1st and 2nd year, the starting salary is € 2715.
From March 1, the starting salary will rise to € 2,900 and the minimum salary to € 3,110 at theaters where the TVöD applies. For theaters where the TV-L or TV-H applies, the increase in the minimum salary will be negotiated before Christmas.
Further increases and steps are to be negotiated.
Non renewal questions
Hearing hearings and non-renewals are scheduled for many colleagues in October and July.
Employment contracts according to NV Stage, are usually limited for one year each. They are automatically extended by one further season each unless one of the contracting parties gives notice of non-extension in good time.
Notification of non-renewal at the end of the season must be given by October 31 of the previous year, or by July 31 if an employee has been at a theater for more than eight seasons - note: the date on which the letter arrives in the mailbox applies, regardless of whether the employee actually takes note of it.
Before the employer can issue a non-extension notice, it must hear the employee at least two weeks in advance - in a so-called hearing. The employee must be invited to the hearing in writing at least five working days in advance.
It is permitted to bring a work colleague and/or a GDBA official to the hearing. This is absolutely recommended. The accompanying persons must be announced in writing to the employer. The accompanying person should prepare as meticulous a record as possible of the hearing interview, in which the persons present and the reasons presented by the employer side for the non-renewal notice are recorded. It is not uncommon for the hearing discussion with the employer side to include constructive discussion of possibilities for the employee to remain on the scene.
If the employer is not prepared to do this, artistic justifications or discussions on the part of the employee are often neither promising nor useful, because the employer does not have to engage in a discussion. In addition, the so-called artistic reasons for non-renewal notices only reflect the subjective assessment of the employer side, but usually cannot be reviewed in court.
If the examination of the circumstances of the specific notification of non-renewal in an individual case reveals that the notification of non-renewal may be incorrect, the employee has a four-month period in which to take legal action against the notification of non-renewal. This period begins on July 31 or October 31 and therefore ends either on November 30 or at the end of February.
If you have received an invitation to the hearing, please contact the chairperson of your local GDBA association immediately. If you have further questions regarding the hearing and the non-renewal notice, please contact the GDBA legal department directly. We will then discuss the case individually.