Austrian maestro is fined 177,000 Euros for hiring 80 foreigners

Austrian maestro is fined 177,000 Euros for hiring 80 foreigners


norman lebrecht

November 09, 2020

ORF reports from the Tirol that the controversial conductor Gustav Kuhn is being penalised for hiring cheap labour and not covering the state’s social insurance charges:

Gustav Kuhn has to pay a fine of 177,100 euros. According to the penal decision of the Kufstein district administration, more than 80 foreigners were employed for the 2017/2018 Winter Festival in Erl, even though they did not have a permit under labor market law.

Read on here. 


  • Patricia says:

    So he hired illegal aliens? Is there a dearth of native-born musicians?

    • Beano says:

      No. Don’t you see it???!
      It’s all about the cheap-cheap.

      In other words: “why care about your own people, when you can get others cheap-cheap”.

      Remove the worth of your own people, for your own personal benefit.
      Disgusting behaviour.

      • Dave says:

        They are carrying out roles which no else will do given the set pay and conditions. In US there is no minimum wage level, at least EU has a threshold, albeit not possible to live on without moonlighting.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          False. The US has a national minimum wage (embarrassingly low at $7.25 an hour). Above that threshold, individual states set their own minimums. For example, New York State is currently $11.80, with phased increases to $15 according to the size of the employer.

          Think before you speak, please.

          • Dave says:

            It is not enforced in US, many workers are paid even less than that pal! Mexicans and Jamaicans.

          • Dave says:

            US is far more expensive than UK, it pays £8.72, so you are talking utter bollocks mate.

          • tiredofitall says:

            No one is disputing cost of living in various counties. The issue was rather does the US have a minimum wage or not. The answer is clear (and law) – yes, it does.

            Utter bollocks indeed. Ignorance is bliss.

      • Maria says:

        This has gone on for years in the music world. It happens in Britain with sending out students with good voices but not finished singers for oratorio work instead of using professionals with experience, knowledge of the profession and other attributes. But it is all about cheap labour, choral societies not having the money, the students needing money and something for the cvs. But then the profession gradually dried up at that level for professionals. It’s all but gone now woth the pandemic. I know Austria is different but in the end it’s all about getting singers or musicians on the cheap. Refuse and always someone else there to take your place for even less.

    • Sherlock Holmes says:

      Madam, you have seen everything, but observed nothing.

      It does not actually specify musicians in the news briefing. Cheap labour would imply non-musicians, unskilled fetch and carry, who would not be Austrian, since they would not agree to work under those terms. I believe the term used nowadays is “Roadies”, or stage support staff. I would postulate that they were either Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, or possibly Slovakians but not Czechs.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        This is confusing. All of the countries you mention are in the EU and their citizens would not require work permits. Are you just guessing the nationalities of these workers?

      • Max Grimm says:

        That’s some dreadfully weak supposition for someone of your stature Mr. Holmes, wouldn’t you say? The commenters pointing to musicians and artists are indeed correct; your postulations, not so much.
        From one of the early articles reporting the accusations of labor law violations:

        „Unter anderem will “art but fair” neben dem Vorwurf sexueller Übergriffe geklärt haben, ob es tatsächlich – wie kolportiert – eine unterschiedliche Vertrags- und/oder Gagen-Struktur zwischen Künstlern aus EU- und Nicht-EU-Staaten gegeben habe. Zudem will der Vereine wissen, ob die in “Erl übliche Kombination von Dienst- und Werkvertrag” bei Künstlern für ein und dieselbe Produktion den rechtlichen Vorschriften entspreche und ob das Arbeitsvolumen der Proben und Aufführungen den arbeitsrechtlichen Vorschriften gemäß gewesen sei. Zusätzlich zu der Anzeige bei der Staatsanwaltschaft habe “art but fair” Anfragen an die Arbeiterkammer und das AMS Tirol gestellt. Diese betreffen die arbeits-, dienst- und sozialversicherungsrechtliche “Auffälligkeiten”.“ art-but-fair-erstattete-anzeige-in-causa-festspiele-erl/apa-1440970942

        • Dave says:

          Where does it specify musicians? Unskilled workers is what it implies nothing more, eg Albanians.

          They appear to be paying below the minimum wage.

        • Sherlock Holmes says:

          Albania is not in EU, most probably Albanians, they are on every street corner now in UK/Ireland, or Russians.

      • Natalie says:

        From Belarus…

    • Dave says:

      Where does it specify musicians? That requires a skill which has a commercial value.

  • Since EU members would be allowed to work, I’m wondering where the 80 foreigners were from. Anyone here know?

  • Harold Clarkson says:

    I believe this is all a bit misleading. The issue here as i gather from the ongoing reports is that he didnt pay the obligatory social charges , heath insurance, etc, as required by law for a number of years. that is the key issue in the case

  • anon says:

    “fine of 177,100 euros…80 foreigners”

    Which comes out to an additional 2,213 euros per foreigner, so it was STILL cheaper than hiring 80 Austrians at market rate plus social charges and taxes, LOL!

  • Inaustria says:

    I cannot speak about Erl, but I have performed in Vienna many, many times with an orchestra from Bratislava that was bussed in for the evening. I believe that the chorus at a well-known summer festival is/was also bussed in.

  • Dave says:

    Perhaps the Austrian authorities allowing them in in the first place are really to blame, they should be fined instead.

  • Gustavo says:

    Better not ask what they were payed for.

  • Brian Boru says:

    Anyone not Austrian in Austria is a “foreigner” even if they come from another EU statelet. However in german, Auslander really means non-European in Austria, Turks etc. So the above “Foreigners” term actually means auslander, meaning anyone from Africa, Asia, non-European etc. You have to read through the lines. They clearly will be paid peanuts.

  • Sharon says:

    Although it is not surprising whatever the details of this case, it is just another example of an ethnic minority or minorities being taken advantage of or exploited. Of course in tough economic times this sort of thing will increase with of course the people responsible for it saying that they had no choice, and maybe they did not.

    What is surprising to me is that no one is expressing any sympathy for the low paid foreign workers who also do not have a choice. Instead many of the bloggers here seem resentful that the work, which the natives would probably be reluctant to do at the wages paid, is being done by foreigners.

    I know that in the United States immigrants in many cases actually increase employment by allowing sectors such as agriculture, what manufacturing that is left, and even academia where foreign graduate students do a lot of the teaching, to stay in the US by keeping it competitive with foreign countries. If not, these economic sectors would leave the US.

    • Ulick Magee says:

      US is a sink or swim place. I would not like to live there at all with no NHS, no proper beer, fish and chips, tea, football, rugby, etc.

      Yes no one wants to snag turnips in UK/Ireland either, that is now all done by migrants from Albania, Romania, Poland etc. We have all become too affluent to dirty our shoes.

  • Sharon says:


    I know from my own research that in an economic downturn the first to be unemployed are those in the discretionary spending sectors, arts, entertainment, restaurants and tourism. There is only so much that most people will pay for a ticket, regardless of how much they like the music. Without government subsidy this will continue to happen.
    Perhaps part of the answer is trans European musicians unions and agreements. It may not prevent all wage undercutting but if arts administrators can say to governments that “these are the wages that I am required to pay” then, at least in Europe, more government subsidy will eventually be forthcoming.

  • Jonathan Cable says:

    The orchestra was from Belarus, which is as you likely know not an EU member. Apparently the festival had them come in as “tourists” to avoid having to pay for work visas and social contributions (health care, pension, etc). The fine was paid in 2019, apparently by private donors to the festival.

    • Eddie Chapman says:

      The news item did not actually say anything about an orchestra from Belarus, I assumed it was just about low skilled cleaners, gophers etc, yes it is non-EU, smuggling in folk as “tourists” that way is breaking EU law, also it poses security/biosecurity risks.

      • Jonathan Cable says:

        You’re right, this particular article doesn’t mention the orchestra from Belarus, but many other articles I have read in Austrian media have talked about it with quite a bit of detail.