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Carried Motions - Delegate Conference 2023

All the Motions shown were carried by the 40th Musicians’ Union Delegate Conference, as amended by the Standing Orders Committee.

Last updated: 27 September 2023

Motion 1: Part Time Student Membership (Scotland and Northern Ireland Region)

At present, the MU offers a student membership rate of £20 per year to those in full-time education. Part-time students are not entitled to join at this rate and must pay up to £20 per month. At a time when the cost of living is soaring and student support continues to lag behind inflation, many students are suffering financial hardship whether they are full or part-time.

People study part-time for many reasons, including caring responsibilities and health problems, which place further pressures on their personal budgets. Currently, a student MU member transitioning from a full-time course to a part-time one would have to consider switching from a £20 annual membership fee to one over £200; in the present climate, they are more likely to simply leave the Union.

As the MU offers a reduced student membership rate, it is vital to include all students in its provision. Part-time students face the same hardships and have many of the same needs as their peers, as evidenced by their participation and inclusion in Student Union bodies across the UK and Ireland. It is the MU’s responsibility to support this group, as they support students generally.

Conference calls on the Executive Committee to allow part-time students to be eligible for the existing student membership rate for the Musicians Union.

Motion 2: Secure Music Tuition and Services (Scotland and Northern Ireland Region)

This motion calls for music tuition and services to be made an entitlement for everyone both in and out of the standard curriculum. For too long now, music and the arts in General have been categorised as extracurricular. Not only does this damage the livelihoods of current music teachers but it runs the risk of losing so much developing and future potential within music as an educational tool, cultural backbone and mode of expression.

Many authorities in Scotland: Glasgow City, Falkirk and Aberdeen to name a few, are considering or have cut music services as a means to plug their funding “Black holes”. This will effectively remove thousands of teaching jobs and learning opportunities. This not only effects in school music tuition but music hubs and programs that work hand in hand with schools. The recently closed “Nevis Ensemble” comes to mind. Music services and hubs that work outside but with mainstream education provide vital support to teachers and students.

The MU recently challenged and managed to prevent proposed cuts in Midlothian, saving around 800 jobs. Although this is by no means a permanent fix. As stated above music tuition and services need to be secured.

We call upon the EC to lobby governments and other relevant organisations across the UK to:

  • Make music tuition and services an entitlement for all.
  • Ring-fence funding so it can't be used to plug financial deficit.
  • Protect and enhance teaching positions and learning opportunities.

Motion 3: Supporting Music in Higher Education (London Region)

Music as a subject of study is under threat at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Not only have government cuts of up to 50% been ideologically inflicted on music courses, with their value underestimated in favour of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) agenda, but many HEI staff have been forced to undertake industrial action to fight for better working and pay conditions.

Conference notes there are many MU members working in HEIs as permanent staff as well as those brought in under hourly paid rates to teach instrumental lessons or to lead ensembles. These members have not seen their pay rise in line with inflation and have been asked to bear additional unpaid work to be able to guarantee their jobs. Also, some members are facing voluntary or compulsory redundancies as music courses have been forced to close due to declining student numbers. This decline was exacerbated by Brexit and the loss of EU students, as well as by the cost-of-living crisis making university unaffordable for many from lower income backgrounds for whom such music degrees could be transformational.

In 2022-23 the University and College Union (UCU) has undertaken industrial action to campaign for fairer pay, pension and workload reviews, as well as an end to unwanted casualisation. Whilst progress has been made many Vice Chancellors are continuing to receive eye-watering salaries and are refusing to tap into significant reserves which would solve many of issues highlighted in the UCU Rising campaign. MU members have been supportive of the UCU action with some undertaking the joint membership but there are also many who cannot afford the current joint membership rate, and thus not legally allowed to participate in industrial action.

With these points in mind we ask the Executive Committee to:

  • Review the joint membership rate with UCU and explore negotiating a lower rate from UCU to afford recognised workplace protections for MU members.
  • Call on Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) members to review staff workload hours (including the number of hours given to marking, preparation and planning time), as well as ensuring staff are not being overburdened with additional tasks such as recruitment and marketing for courses.
  • Call on UCEA members to increase staff pay in line with inflation and review the hourly paid lecturer rates that impact many instrumental tutors.
  • Explore the impact of pension reforms on MU members in HEIs and to review the state of pension contributions from HEIs.
  • Continue to oppose government cuts to music courses in universities and conservatoires.
  • Campaign against the continued exclusion of music from the teaching bursary scheme.

Motion 4: Travel Costs and Expense Payments to Freelance Orchestral Musicians (Midlands Region)

A lack of public investment in orchestras since 2010 has meant that travel expense agreements for freelance orchestral musicians have not kept pace with increases in fuel and public transport costs. Travel costs paid over and above expenses received negate negotiated increases in performance fees and community activity, and consequently reduce earned income.

The Union’s current policy on travel payments is inconsistent. There are a range of individual policies across multiple organisations and separate arrangements for ABO members. Some agreements calculate travel in a banding system. Some require a specified distance to be completed at the musicians’ own expense before travel becomes payable. Mileage rates seldom reflect actual costs.

A comprehensive travel fee policy review is needed to harmonise and improve freelance travel expenses in our orchestral agreements.

Conference asks the EC to undertake a comprehensive review of freelance travel payment policy in all our freelance agreements, both regional and national. This is required to develop a travel expenses policy which offers consistency and fairness for freelance orchestral musicians.

The review should consider whether it is still reasonable to expect freelance orchestral musicians to travel a set distance at their own cost before mileage expenses become payable.

The policy should be regularly reviewed and adopted in negotiations, with the Union working towards the adoption of the policy in all freelance orchestral agreements.

Motion 5: Reversion Rights for Musicians (Midlands Region)

1. The Issue

As musicians, we often find ourselves trapped in long-term contracts without the ability to renegotiate or revert our rights. Publishers, record labels and other companies who hold our works and recordings can make little or no effort to promote them yet reap the rewards if we become successful. While many of us entered contracts in good faith, some were not fit for purpose, leaving us with no income or opportunity to monetize our creativity, hindering our ability to survive in our chosen profession.

The main issue is the lack of a legal reversion right once copyright is assigned in a contract that turns out to be on unfavourable terms. Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years for compositions, whilst master rights also last for 70 years, and this can present a problem for many musicians locked into those unfavourable contracts. Mainly because there is no legal right of reversion, unlike in the USA, where authors have the statutory right to reversion at the 35-year mark. Unfortunately, we cannot strike to make our voices heard, so it is imperative that we campaign for reversion rights to secure equality and a sustainable future in our industry.

2. Solution - Right to Challenge

We propose an "enabling motion" that permits the MU to campaign for reversion rights while incorporating flexibility to improve fairness, such as aiming for a 20-year term and/or the right to renegotiate for better terms if the member's income is low compared to the label/publisher's income. We also propose the right to contractual fair remuneration at a trigger point, such as 20 years, that gives the artist flexible options.

Reversion rights have immense potential for creators and performers to take advantage of new opportunities and make previously dormant works available to the public.

3. Campaigning for revesion rights

This conference calls upon the EC to campaign for a change in the law that gives musicians more control over their works so:

  • We have a reversion right at a maximum term of 20 years and/or with the right to renegotiate for better terms.
  • And/or we have a contractual right for fair remuneration, rights reversion, or contract adjustment at some other suitable trigger point (years) that is otherwise dynamically determined at the discretion of the EC as part of this campaign.

Reversion rights have the potential to reduce the collateral damage of copyright transfers and benefit creators with additional exploitation opportunities, financial rewards, and recognition. The public can also benefit from access to works that could otherwise have been lost or not known about.

Motion 6: Professional Musicians Working in Local Theatre (Wales and South West England Region)

Amateur dramatic organisations provide a considerable portion of employment for professional musicians, particularly in the more rural areas of the UK. Conference welcomes the MU’s agreement with NODA which recognises musicians working in this field, yet notes that, despite the MU/NODA-agreed rates for this work, most theatre groups currently pay substantially less.

As the costs of hiring the venue and materials required to stage a musical rise, theatre companies are increasingly seeking to reduce costs by cutting band sizes, or opting to hire licensed recordings instead of a live pit band. This not only puts many musicians out of work, but prevents those onstage and in the audience from benefitting from fully live musical theatre.

All of the major musical theatre licensing organisations now provide, and promote, an option to hire recordings in place of orchestra/band charts for many of the musicals in their catalogue. This is understandably an attractive option for theatre groups struggling under increasing financial pressure.

Conference asks the EC to consider:

  • starting a campaign on a theme such as ‘keep music live in musicals’;
  • surveying musicians across the UK to identify the number of musicians affected and the challenges faced;
  • continuing its work with NODA to identify ways in which the MU can support local theatre groups in continuing to hire professional musicians;
  • opening a dialogue with licensing companies such as Musical Theatre International, Theatrical Rights Worldwide and Concord Theatricals to discuss ways of supporting local groups to maintain pit bands;
  • creating a sub-committee of the Theatre Section made of local theatre musicians across the UK to facilitate ongoing discussion and devise a strategy to restore and improve theatre pit band conditions.

Motion 7: Live Licence Fees (Wales and South West England Region)

There is currently a problem with the PRS licence fee for live performances being passed to bands and artists by the venues they play at. This means that MU members are losing money from their performances and royalties – this issue can cost working bands thousands of pounds during a tour.

There are three ways in which a band, singer, or artist can earn money at a show or gig: the gig fee (either a straight fee or door split), merchandise sales, and PRS live performance royalties. If an artist composes their own material then at a later date, usually some months away, they receive a royalty payment from the PRS license that the venue/theatre/arts centre has to pay. However, a large percentage of this licence fee is now being passed on to bands or singers by venues.

PRS have said that venues are responsible for this issue, but venues don’t seem to understand the situation. I have been advised that the problem can be solved by excluding payment of the PRS licence in the contract, but the issue is so entrenched that is difficult for individual artists to resolve it with venues.

Venues often already take a cut of merchandise sales and charge fees for other things like sound or tech support and opening the building, and food and accommodation costs are often charged to artists too. This issue now removes members’ ability to earn income from their royalty payments.

Conference acknowledges the Union’s previous work and discussions on this issue, and asks the EC to consider how it could be further discussed at a national level in order to make venues and PRS aware of the situation.

Motion 8: Photo ID Reminder (London Region)

Conference regrets the introduction of photo ID for in-person voting, as a result of the 2022 Elections Act, and notes that it will disproportionately affect the more vulnerable members of society and could disenfranchise many Musicians’ Union members.

Conference asks the EC to lobby the government to repeal this law and the corresponding law in Northern Ireland – (Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Act 2002); and while the legislation is still in force mention the introduction of photo ID in communications with members, encourage members to register for postal voting, and lobby the government to provide valid ID to all registered voters who need it.

Motion 9: Public Funding of the Arts (North of England Region)

The November 2022 announcements by Arts Council England (ACE) on its National Portfolio Organisation programme for 2023-26 revealed a pattern of financial distribution that has caused difficulty for many organisations employing musicians and other arts professionals. Examples include the closing of Oldham Coliseum which lost more than £600,000 ACE funding per year, a 100% cut (over £450,000) to funding of the Watermill theatre, and a 100% disinvestment in Harrogate theatre.

Conference calls on the EC to develop a policy towards public funding for the arts for the MU to adopt. It should consider:

  • Encouragement for all Local Governments to develop and update their arts and culture strategies as part of their economic and redevelopment agendas.
  • The possibility of established arts organisations having more consistent funding than from a grant funding programme.
  • Recognition of trade union agreements by recipient organisations, local government etc.

Motion 10: Save BBC Introducing and Local BBC Shows (North of England Region)

The North of England Committee notes that:

  • BBC Introducing is a vital platform for emerging artists across the regions. This issue is pertinent to current and future members of the Musicians’ Union and wider community.
  • According to the BBC, in 2022 alone over 900,000 tracks were uploaded to the Introducing website with over 300,000 artists registered.
  • The BBC have proposed to cut the number of BBC local radio stations hosting their own Introducing show to 20 (it was previously 32 out of 39 local stations, so a percentage drop from 82% to 51%) regional examples include Cumbria, Humberside, Merseyside and Manchester but the issue is nationwide.
  • BBC Radio Manchester’s African and Caribbean show The People and South Asian show Indus which both provide vital information, news and support for the community would be affected by the proposed cuts.
  • The North of England Committee believes that:
  • The People, Indus, and BBC Introducing have consistently provided a launchpad for diverse grassroots talent as well as supporting and promoting the wider musical ecosystem.
  • The adventurous programming, research and development undertaken by these shows plays a vital role that isn't mirrored within the BBC's national offering. Failing to provide informed specialist programming that serves African, Caribbean, Asian and other communities will result in a severely diminished platform for Black or Asian artists, and, distressingly, a radio landscape that in no way reflects the region we live in.
  • These shows need to remain both on traditional airwaves and on digital platforms so younger and older audiences can access this vital programming.

Conference calls upon the EC to:

  1. Make a statement challenging the BBC’s proposed cuts to local radio shows.
  2. Campaign for the continuation of local and BBC introducing shows.
  3. Offer information, advice, guidance and legal support to Members affected by BBC cuts to local radio services, to include information about debt advice and sources of financial help.
  4. Collaborate with the NUJ, Equity and BECTU over jointly affected members.

Motion 11: Trade Union Solidarity and Co-operation (London Region)

Conference notes that:

  • Due to a combination of many factors, workers across the country are in crisis and are demanding protection of living and working conditions. Increased participation in trade union politics includes the most industrial action this country has seen in decades;
  • Some of the greatest successes in the advancements of workers’ rights have been achieved by the cooperation of two or more unions, eg solidarity shown by the postal workers’ union during the Grunwick dispute of 1976 and the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign in 1984-5;
  • The current Labour Party has repeatedly abstained from allying itself with trade unions taking industrial action, even though this is supposed to be a founding principle of the Labour Party, to which the MU is affiliated.

Conference believes that:

  • There is power in a union - but there is even more power in a united front of workers across many unions. In addition to improving pay and conditions for its own members, a union’s campaigning and lobbying work can help change laws, gain new rights and improve standards for everybody in places of work. In this way a strong trade union movement benefits all workers. This is of critical importance for the self-employed, who enjoy fewer workplace rights and who make up the majority of the MU’s membership;
  • If we come out in support of other trade unions’ campaigns and industrial actions, this will both strengthen the common cause and also engender mutual solidarity when the MU itself embarks upon specific campaigns;
  • As a union, we should be appalled that the party to which we are affiliated is actively choosing not to support trade unions in a cost of living crisis and is thereby jeopardising the livelihoods and lives of citizens, including MU members.

Conference requests that:

  • The EC publicly express support for other trade unions in their activities and should encourage its members to individually support and/or attend these as applicable by publishing details of campaigns and actions;
  • The EC establishes a stronger and more visible culture of mutual cooperation with other trade unions, particularly those whose members work alongside its own in various workplaces, such as Equity, BECTU and the teaching unions;
  • The EC demands Labour Party recognition and support of trade union activity and philosophy at every opportunity, including voting against bills which restrict or remove the rights and actions of trade unions when they are brought to parliament.

Motion 12: Welsh Language (Wales and South West England Region)

There is currently no provision for Welsh language speakers when engaging with the MU.  Wales is the "Land of Song", with two full-time orchestras, many chamber ensembles, choirs, opera companies and a thriving Welsh pop music scene with many prospective members. It is important that the MU recognises the needs of Welsh speaking musicians and develops some provision in Welsh.

The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 means the Welsh Language has equal legal status with English, and the people of Wales have a legal right to use the Welsh Language with public organisations.  For most companies in Wales it is standard practice and an essential part of their work to offer their services in Welsh and English on an equal basis.

Currently the Musicians’ Union does not provide any services or information through the medium of Welsh – this means that we are falling behind Equity, BECTU WGGB and Wales TUC.

Conference asks the EC to develop and apply a Welsh Language strategy to enable members to engage with, and access services from, the Union in Welsh.

Motion 13: Features Highlighting Musicians’ Successful Health Stories (East and South East England Region)

Freelance musicians, as well as those in employment, have many varied health problems which they may not discuss with their colleagues for fear of being precluded from further work offers. Often this has further negative health effects on the individual as they may feel isolated.

Whilst acknowledging the excellent work already carried out within the Education and Health & Wellbeing department in respect to raising awareness of musicians’ health issues, conference feels that musicians talking to fellow musicians on a peer to peer basis is often the way forward. Therefore, Conference asks the Executive Committee to look further into the health issues facing freelance musicians and to consider producing a series of features in the Musician journal and within the MU website identifying successful individual health stories told by musicians, which could be anonymised, to prevent individual freelance musicians feeling isolated, and identifying what help there is available to them.

Motion 14: Pandemic Future Planning (North of England Region)

The Covid-19 epidemic caused considerable hardship for many musicians, particularly the self-employed and freelancers. MU research revealed that 34% of musicians considered abandoning their careers, and 37% were unsure about whether they would continue with their musical careers.

The current UK Covid-19 Inquiry is examining the UK’s response to and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with a view to learning lessons for the future.

Conference calls on the EC to retrospectively review both the MU’s and Government’s arrangements for musicians during the pandemic with the aim of developing policies, proposals and contingency plans for similar situations in the future.

Motion 15: Support and Advice Re Abuse within Educational Systems (London Region)

A vast number of musicians have suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse during their music education, including in further education and in specialist music schools.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) inquiry into specialist music schools published in 2022 revealed the scale of the issue at these schools, as well as the wider culture which enabled this abuse. The MU’s joint ‘Dignity in Study’ report revealed high levels of bullying, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour across further education in the arts.

Conference calls upon the Executive Committee to provide a dedicated section on the MU website about Abuse in Music Education. Whilst the MU already makes safeguarding training available for music teachers through Educare, these resources would differ by:

  • Providing support and advice for the numerous musicians who have previously suffered abuse in music education, many of whom feel that their experience is not fully acknowledged.
  • Providing information on how sexual, physical and emotional abuse can manifest, specifically in 1 to 1 lessons, and how wider musical cultures (eg the classical music culture) can enable such abuse. This includes both school settings (inc. specialist music schools) and further education.
  • Providing support for current students, with the emphasis on how to reach out/report abuse without the fear of backlash.

These resources would help musicians feel that their experiences are recognised, provide a first step in helping them deal with the lifelong impact of abuse, and send a powerful signal to institutions.

Motion 16: Domestic Abuse Support for Survivors within the MU (North of England Region)

According to the United Nations, domestic abuse can be defined as a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner, family member or carer. Abuse can be physical, sexual, coercive behaviour, emotional, economic, psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, disability, or class.

In 2022 more than 2.4 million people experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales according to the National Crime Survey. The actual figure is likely to be much higher as many cases go unreported.

Domestic abuse is a trade union issue. A Select Committee inquiry into misogyny in the music industry found that many musicians do not feel comfortable reaching out for support within the industry because of fear of reputational damage. Not being able to access specialist support within the music industry affects survivors’ personal and professional lives, their mental and physical health, and relationships. It can result in the need to take career breaks or leave the music industry altogether where survivors do not feel safe or supported.

Conference notes that the MU has started signposting domestic abuse resources and support on a dedicated webpage.

Conference therefore calls on the Executive Committee to:

  • Explore options for a designated domestic abuse lead to be created within the MU team of officials’.
  • Explore ways to increase understanding of domestic abuse among the membership and in the wider music industry.
  • Investigate providing access to survivor peer support groups for members.
  • Encourage the development of a ‘supporting survivors of domestic abuse’ policy for employers to form part of collective bargaining agreements and negotiations with engagers.

Motion 17: Childcare & Carers Support and Advice (North of England Region)

Conference notes that:

People with ongoing childcare & unpaid care responsibilities face higher levels of job insecurity, exceptionally low levels of work-life balance and low levels of employability. Lone parents & carers can be particularly overstretched if providing long term support and resources around the hardship and suffering of people they care for. Burnout, poor well-being & family breakdown are common as many do not have enough support. These roles are often more pronounced for women.

UK Carers Allowance is £76.75 per week (correct as of 24 April 2023), and median earnings of £15k average for carers and people struggling with childcare are significantly lower than those without similar responsibilities. A severe lack of provision & awareness in arts work leads many to forgo opportunities or give up careers unless they can afford the huge expense of childcare, disability and/or elderly care.

Conference believes that:

  • Music work & cultural industries are enriched by being inclusive of carers & people with childcare responsibilities. The music & arts sectors, however, have a long way to go in shifting mindsets, understanding possible practical accommodations, and the benefits of enabling people in these circumstances to work.
  • There is existing support information on the Musicians’ Union website about new parental, adoption & maternity rights; disabled musicians rights, and one-off grants - but no clear advice regarding carers & ongoing childcare.
  • The Musicians’ Union is in a crucial position to explore good practice, campaign and advise employers, music industry and arts workers on accommodating flexible working patterns and practices, support, disability, and family-friendly policies.

Conference calls upon the Executive Committee to:

  • Set up a members’ meeting and create a member’s network for parents and carers to understand the experiences & challenges faced by carers and people with ongoing childcare responsibilities who work in music and the arts.
  • Engage with organisations such as PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) to look at recommendations of good practice for arts, education, venue, and festival employers.
  • Commit to providing a resource for members which includes practical and supporting advice. At a basic level this could include new, and enhance existing, information on the website; signpost to organisations that offer support; and practical and holistic approaches.
  • Explore if there could be a campaign created for ongoing childcare & unpaid carers’ rights in relation to music work. Consider partnering with relevant campaigns and other arts unions.

Emergency Motion: Closure of Railway Ticket Offices (Executive Committee)

Conference stands with the RMT Union in opposing plans by the Government and Train Companies to close nearly one thousand ticket offices across the rail network.

Ticket offices and station staffing must be protected in order to maintain passenger service, safety, security and accessibility. These plans are not about improving the passenger experience, but rather cutting jobs and protecting the profits of the train companies.

We know that closing ticket offices will worsen the passenger experience, safety, security and accessibility. The impacts will be particularly severe for disabled people, elderly passengers, those travelling alone and those requiring additional support.

Elderly and disabled people, and people on low incomes are less likely to have access to the internet and are excluded by the push to online and electronic ticketing.

Musicians travelling for work either early in the morning or late at night, such as women, disabled and other people seen as different or ‘other’ are especially vulnerable.

Campaign resources are available on the RMT website.

Conference asks the Executive Committee to publicly express it and the MU’s support for this campaign and to do so today.