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Moved by Jermain Jackman, the motion urges the TUC to conduct research into a universal basic income (UBI) for freelance workers, and work with the MU on a young members’ UBI campaign.

In a powerful speech, Jermain told delegates, “The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed had a huge impact musicians’ jobs with the lack of work, changes in people’s behaviour, and ultimately feeling invisible when support from Government was rolled out.”

“That's why this motion is about exploring the idea of UBI for creative freelancers - ensuring that we’re looking at ways in which people, especially creative freelancers, don't fall through the gaps,” he added.

Universal basic income became MU policy at the union’s own biennial delegate conference in summer 2021, where it was moved by MU member and TUC Young Workers Conference delegate Sam Murray.

Representing musicians in the debate

Other issues raised by the union at TUC Young Workers Conference include the economics of music streaming, the impact of the lack of Government support for young musicians through the Covid-19 pandemic, and the right to disconnect.

Sam also spoke on support for teachers and the specific needs of the music education workforce: “It’s really important for us to resist what Government is trying to do to education.”

Meeting members where they are

Newly elected MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl appeared on a panel at TUC Young Workers Conference alongside representatives from the TUC and campaign collective Better Than Zero.

Naomi Pohl said:

“The way to organise young workers is to meet them where they are. Not just in terms of location, but in terms of the issues they care about. It’s not about talking to members top down. It’s about going in and seeing where we can help".

In particular, Naomi discussed the difference between what the trade union movement might think of as a typical workplace and where MU members might work, such as at home, on tour and in other spaces. It’s why the MU has promulgated and self-employed rates, for example. “We’re not recognised in all workplaces, but that doesn’t stop us,” she added.

Naomi also talked about finding ways to bring in freelancers who aren’t always free to attend union meetings, and creating space for organising conversations to take place where people working together may have different statuses as employed, freelance, and agency workers.


Government must listen to young workers

As well as debating and voting on motions put forward by young trade unionists, Conference heard from keynote speaker Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Taiwo Owatemi MP, who opened Conference with a call on Government to listen to young and diverse voices.

Conference heard from keynote speaker Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Taiwo Owatemi MP.

“Too often, the voice and experiences of young people are not heard or listened to in the places where the most impactful decisions are made,” she told delegates.

Owatemi also called out Government for “flip flopping on the most basic rights of LGBT+ people,” following the announcement that the conversion therapy ban will not protect all LGBT+ people. MU members are encouraged to email their MP in support of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign.

“Working hand in hand with our trade unions, Labour will bring greater equality to our workplaces and our society,” she added, praising the trade union movement for “leading the fightback against the cruelty of Government” and tackling bullying and harassment at work.

Making Saturday 18 June the biggest mobilisation yet

General Secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady called on the trade union movement to make the TUC’s national mobilisation on Saturday 18 June the “biggest, boldest and best mobilisation” in the second keynote speech of Conference.

O’Grady also piled on the pressure on P&O after the company sacked 800 UK based staff by video and attempted to replace them with workers paid as little as £1.80 an hour, and P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite told MPs in a Select Committee that they would do it again. She said:

It is not migrant workers on poverty pay who are the enemy. It is the bosses who exploit them, and the Tory politicians who let them get away with it. We need an Employment Bill to protect workers and a ban on fire and rehire

O’Grady’s call follows a letter from close to thirty trade union General Secretaries including MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl, to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, calling on the government to strengthen employment legislation and make sure what happened at P&O can never happen again.

The TUC General Secretary also expressed solidarity with workers in Ukraine. The MU recently made a £10,000 donation to support humanitarian relief efforts and has put together a list of resources for members keen to show solidarity.


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