Yesterday the MU’s General Secretary Naomi Pohl met with Labour Leader Keir Starmer to discuss the hardships many musicians are currently facing following the Covid-19 and cost of living crises, as well as the impact of Brexit.
“Improving pay and conditions, including for freelancers, is our top priority”.
She warned that there remains a risk of musicians leaving the industry following the last two years with little income, with many receiving no Government support at all. In fact, the Union is already aware of a building crisis regarding a lack of freelance musicians in certain areas of work.
Naomi made Keir aware of an urgent need for additional arts funding to ensure musicians' pay increases in line with the rising cost of living. The MU is planning a cross-sector industrial campaign focusing on better pay and conditions for members which will be discussed with Committee members and activists before being announced to the full membership.
Brexit and streaming
Naomi also discussed the impact of Brexit and the Labour Party's commitment to assisting with the negotiation of bilateral agreements. While Keir has said Labour won't reverse Brexit, he is committed to resolving the issues for musicians. The MU has made practical proposals to Government as part of a wider music industry initiative and we are currently awaiting a response.
Keir took a keen interest in the issues our members face in relation to music streaming. Naomi updated him on the Union's #FixStreaming campaign and #BrokenRecord, as well as expanding on the intentions of the Brennan Bill which was debated in Parliament in December.
Music Education and industry culture
Another key policy priority for the MU is music education and, following the publication of England's National Plan for Music Education last week, we would welcome a commitment to a review of music teachers' pay and conditions as we have in Wales. Naomi raised this with Keir as something that would assist members and also ensure standards of music education. She mentioned a general decline in terms and conditions as well as a move to zero hours contracts which could lead to a deterioration in provision.
Finally, Naomi spoke to Keir about our commitment to changing the culture of the industry, the trade union movement and stamping out bullying and harassment. The UK Government has ensured a certain amount of progress but we are still a long way from the culture change we desperately need.