The BBC has put forward proposals to axe BBC Singers six months before they celebrate their centenary and cut 20% of jobs across the BBC’s three orchestras in England. They are the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Symphony and BBC Philharmonic.
As the trade union for musicians in the UK, the MU has been providing representation and support to members since the announcement on Tuesday morning.
That includes attending orchestra briefings with members, emergency meetings with reps and members to work on the union’s response, and building political support.
Union members challenged BBC executives on the cuts
At meetings on Thursday, members at both BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra spoke out powerfully and eloquently against the proposals.
They challenged BBC Head of Orchestras and Choirs Simon Webb and Director of Music Lorna Clarke on the cruel and undignified way the announcement was made, with BBC Singers’ family and friends learning on social media that they were being sacked before they could tell people personally. The same is true of the pool of over 200 freelance singers who will lose large chunks of work that they rely on.
Members also pushed Simon Webb and Lorna Clarke on the role of the consultation, given the cuts have been presented as a fait accompli in BBC’s announcement – something MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl pushed Simon Webb on in Tuesday’s episode of Front Row.
Naomi and MU Head of Orchestras Jo Laverty will be supporting union stewards and MU Executive Committee Chair Alex Gascoine at an initial consultation meeting on Friday 10 March.
Supporting members on all fronts
At the same time, the MU is working to build support in Parliament and brief MPs on the latest developments. MPs who have spoken out against the cuts so far include Kevin Brennan MP, Barbara Keeley MP and Apsana Begum MP.
The MU has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer MP calling for support for BBC Singers and Orchestras, and an extension to the increased rate of Orchestral Tax Relief beyond April.
The measure is supported by MPs in the Performers Alliance All Party Parliamentary Group, who have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt ahead of the upcoming budget, with the MU’s support.
Our call is also backed by UK Music, the umbrella body for the music industry, which has made it one of their eight-point plan asks for the Chancellor.
Show your support – take action now!
Take action now to protect BBC Singers and orchestras from the proposed cuts: