Following a nationwide quarantine, more than 80 companies have come together to form the Events Industry Association (EIA), whose main objective is to save the crisis-hit events sector, which employs more than thirteen thousand people.
After three official letters to the Government and various public authorities, the RIA has not yet received an action plan outlining concrete measures to assist the events industry, which is unlikely to be able to fully operate for some time even after the end of the Government's quarantine and ban on events.
"I am pleased that the dialogue that has taken several weeks to get underway is finally starting. Today, Remigijus Žemaitaitis, a Member of the Seimas, gave an accurate voice to the problems of our industry in the Seimas session. It is encouraging to hear Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas' promise from the floor of the Seimas that the Government will soon make proposals for our sector too. However, it is regrettable that the Ministry of Culture has been so closed-minded - the team of Minister Mindaugas Kvietkauskas sees no need to include representatives of the Events Industry Association in the deliberations - and it is clear that it is much more difficult to understand the issues and hear the proposals. Unfortunately, our communication has so far been limited to official letters and e-mails, which, instead of discussing the substance of the matter, still require us to look for arguments as to why it would be worthwhile to discuss the issues in the events sector with the representatives of the Events Industry Association," explains Gediminas Jaunius, Chairman of the Board of the RIA and head of the creative house ELITAZ.
The Association is not going to rest on its laurels - following the practice of neighbouring countries, the Board members are repeatedly appealing to the Government and the Seimas in an attempt to draw attention to the importance of this sector for society.
"It is very surprising that there are so many people around who are not aware that concerts and other events have been postponed not at the "request" of the performers and organisers. For many artists, postponed concerts are missed opportunities that have been decades in the making and may never happen again. Artists and organisers incur costs of up to 50% or more before the event, even if the event "could" be postponed, which is a huge loss", says Valdas Petreikis, organiser of Midsummer Vilnius.
Marijus Olekas, the head of UAB "Lietuvis" and a member of the association's board, also speaks about the fact that the prevailing cliché in the society that art is not a matter of first necessity will not become a precondition for leaving all people involved in culture and events behind: "The events industry is considered absolutely unimportant and irrelevant to the economy. Our goal is to be heard, to receive support from the state - the kind of support that this sector receives in other European countries. Latvia, Poland, even though they are very far away, are taking the necessary decisions and very quickly. Our industry wants to stay on the market, to keep jobs and to continue its mission, which is important in the life of our country."
Agnė Grigaliūnienė, Head of OLIVE and Member of the Board of the Association, emphasises the importance of the events industry sector in the social life of the country: 'Our sector not only raises people's emotional health and has been adding value to the state for years by employing a large number of creative people, we also develop projects that connect countless small and very small businesses - in the principle of a chain, allowing businesses to operate, create jobs and pay taxes. So if the state has banned our day-to-day activities, I believe that responsibility will be taken and that we will be helped to get back to the daily rhythm of life and work after the crisis and to continue to operate and to pay our taxes while keeping our jobs. The formula for cooperation is simple - we ask the State to help us in the short term so that we can act and pay back in the long term."
Diana Bukantaitė - Kutkevičienė, a member of the RIA Board, and Head of DOMINO Theatre, draws the public's attention to the scale of the crisis that has hit the events sector, highlighting the number of professionals who have lost the opportunity to work in this sector. "Today, when we address the authorities, we are talking about the problems of the entire events industry. We are talking about the people who were out of work on 13 March. And it's not just well-known actors, musicians or event organisers. After all, how many people who are invisible to the public work to put on a play, conference or concert - directors, producers, arena and concert hall staff, ticket agents, sound, lighting and stage technicians, caterers, dressers, make-up artists, decorators, cleaners and many others. So we are asking for the cooperation of the State so that we can save jobs and take care of those people who have worked and paid their taxes honestly, but have lost their jobs. The Event Industry Association has put forward proposals to tackle the problems of the whole sector - VAT relief, wage subsidies and non-discriminatory benefits for the self-employed, a sensible and proportionate approach to relocated events and the right of return - so that we can survive this difficult period and get back to work after it. But our proposals need to be heard and we are ready to work together with the authorities to find solutions."
For the third time, the members of the Events Industry Association, who have addressed the Government and the Seimas, ask:
- Adopt appropriate amendments to the Employment Act to ensure that participants in the events market are fully subsidised (100%) for the duration of the event and gathering insurance period, and at least 50% for the 3 months following the lifting of the insurance, and to adopt legislation to ensure that participants in the events market who are self-employed (on the basis of self-employment certificates and business licenses) are paid at least 80% of the average of the previous year's earnings (subject to the cap);
- enact legislation stipulating that event organisers must use their best endeavours to ensure that events which have not taken place as a result of the ban on events and gatherings are postponed and held before the date set by the Government, and that money paid for tickets to postponed events must not be refunded in such cases
- Reduce the VAT rate for the events market.