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General Secretary Term Extension

The Chair of the MU’s Executive Committee (EC), Dave Lee, explains how the EC made a unanimous decision to extend the General Secretary’s term of office.

Published: 25 April 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM
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"The EC can clarify that it was unanimous in its decision and is delighted to have endorsed an extension to our General Secretary’s term of office until retirement on his 68th birthday."

The MU Executive Committee has been contacted by a member in regard to an item in the abridged minutes of the February EC meeting concerning the General Secretary’s term of office. The Executive Committee can clarify that it was unanimous in its decision and is delighted to have endorsed an extension to our General Secretary’s term of office until retirement on his 68th birthday.

The decision was taken in full receipt of legal advice covering the required conditions to be fulfilled under TULRCA 1992 and the MU Rules. This advice was given by Thompsons, a highly respected law firm specialising in Trade Union Law and, in summary, was as follows:

  • Rule VIII 8 of the MU rules providing for the General Secretary to “hold office for the maximum period provided by law” satisfies the requirement of section 58 to be “entitled under the rules of the union” to continue in office.
  • The age and date of election of the current General Secretary mean that he meets the requirements for section 58 to apply.
  • Section 58 refers to “the age fixed by, or in accordance with, the rules of the union for him to retire from the position”. The EC has power under MU Rule VIII 1 to “determine the terms and conditions of employment of the General Secretary” and therefore has power in accordance with the rules to determine the retirement date applicable to the General Secretary.
  • Section 58 does not prohibit the union from agreeing a retirement date which is later than state retirement age.

The full advice was sent out to EC Vice Chairs by me on 10 January this year, well in advance of the February EC meeting and communicated to the full EC at the meeting. During the presentation of this advice, various points and reassurances were asked for and given. The advice was thorough and was accepted unanimously.

Since Horace became General Secretary there has been a new sense of urgency and drive within the organisation with initiatives to bring the worth of our members to the attention of not only the general public but politicians of all persuasions. We have campaigns in the orchestral field which have brought great steps towards “parity” for extras and deputies, together with joint initiatives like the Manifesto for British Orchestras with the ABO. Campaigns on music education in schools that have been taken up by politicians from all parties. Campaigns on music venues, joint initiatives with UK Music, Help Musicians, BAPAM and many more. Equalities development and Safe Space open lines. A policy of taking our EC meetings to the regions and having the opportunity to engage with the Regional Committees on a personal level. An increase in membership numbers with the advent of a new joining scheme. The reorganisation of staff positions to revitalise our response. An increase in funds to distribute to our members from dubbing receipts that can now be paid out. All this under the shadow of Brexit and the potential harm that this could bring to our profession.

The initiative to attend party conferences and present a stand at these events has proved well worth the investment of our funds. Delegates take great interest in our campaigns and are happy to show their support. This has been all the more so with our successful stand at the Conservative Party conferences where new appreciation and support for our efforts has been found. All the more welcome in the aftermath of the last election. We have access to ministers in a Tory Government to an extent not previously experienced.

To add to this new drive, our biennial conference was transformed with universal approval by those that attended. It now encompasses a review of work to date and an open multi-session day for future ideas within each department of our union. The initiative came from Horace and his team and highlights, together with the above, our desire to extend his term of office, compliant with the law, without the interruption of a possible election. It should also be noted in passing that an extension was granted by the EC to our previous General Secretary John Smith.

With all the uncertainty faced by our members as we navigate withdrawal from the EU, and the extremely effective work the team has done in putting musicians to the forefront of politicians’ minds, the EC was adamant that stability should be sought. We have been reassured that our decision was correct by witnessing the Union’s rapid response to the crisis faced by our members during this unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and the readiness to make funds available to ease immediate hardship.

In relation to the EC minute 1.6 and the debate that took place after deciding there was no need for the General Secretary to leave the room, it should be noted that approval for the extension was resoundingly and unanimously clear. Horace rightly declared an interest in the issue and offered to leave the meeting. The EC unanimously decided that it wished Horace to remain present for the discussion. You will be aware that the General Secretary does not have a vote on the EC.

It had been my intention to let Horace present his request and allow questions to be heard, and then return to the matter at the March EC meeting thereby allowing time for further reflection. The mood of the meeting was so enthusiastic and decisive in support that there was no need to defer until March. It was agreed unanimously as the minute states. The minute sufficiently conveys the mood and decision of the Committee.

The EC takes its responsibilities extremely seriously. It is made up of intelligent, conscientious and diligent activists whose expertise covers every aspect of the music industry. All EC members stand for re-election every two years. It is the EC’s responsibility to oversee the running and governance of our union, ensure we have a strong leadership that protects the future of the MU, protects our members from unscrupulous employers and provide guidance and influence to our politicians. One could add that one of the founding principles was to protect its members from themselves.

The EC is confident that Horace Trubridge provides the quality of leadership the MU needs during these turbulent times.

The decision was communicated by inclusion in the abridged minutes published to members on the MU website as is the customary method of communication. The minute on this item does not differ in the abridged version from the unabridged minutes.

Finally, the very suggestion that the minutes were held back, as reported elsewhere, in order to be obscured under the pandemic news whirl, is insulting to the integrity of our hard working officials and EC in such difficult times where our resources are being sorely tested.

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