Musicians out of tune with orchestra chiefs

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Copy of ST JPO pay complaints (3) INLSA From left: Morkel Combrink, Judith Klins and Laurie Howe are part of a group of musicians locked in a pay dispute with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Timothy Bernard

FREELANCE musicians attached to the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra have accused JPO bosses of running the company like an autocracy and treating them like “indentured slaves with no labour rights”.

Seventeen of the musicians are owed about R250 000 in total, with some saying they have done work for the orchestra without receiving a cent since August last year.

One violinist had to borrow money to pay her rent and fill up her car.

She said that when she asks for her money, she is met by “aggressive” JPO officials who choose to disregard the plight of musicians.

“The general atmosphere of intimidation is blatant. Between December and the present I was forced to borrow money to pay rent and for other expenses,” said Judith Klins.

She said she felt “disrespected and discounted” and was now considering approaching the small claims court in a bid to get her money.

Some musicians are owed as much as R35 000 after performing in various shows like Sleeping Beauty without getting a cent for their services. Sleeping Beauty was showcased at the South African Ballet Theatre, with the last show performed in December.

“We got called for Sleeping Beauty, and we know they got paid for it, but we haven’t been paid our money. We are treated like indentured slaves that have no labour rights,” said Laurie Howe, a cellist.

Another violinist, Morkel Combrink, blamed the financial situation at the JPO on the company’s managing director, Shadrack Bokaba.

“You have a total autocrat (Bokaba) who cannot accept any advice or criticism with the way he handles his company,” Combrink said.

He said that when he demanded his money from the JPO, he was told he would never be called to perform again.

Bokaba has laid the blame on late payments from the National Lotteries Board (NLB). “It’s a cash-flow situation. If you are owed for 15 months by the NLB it makes life very difficult, and planning quite impossible,” he said.

NLB spokesman Sershan Naidoo said they paid the JPO on May 22, with the next payment to be made “shortly”. - The Star

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