In her speech to MU members at the 39th Musicians’ Union Delegate Conference, Frances O’Grady singled out the MU’s championing of higher education arts and music subjects in the face of “outrageous” Government funding cuts that were confirmed minutes after day one of MU Conference came to a close.
The funding cut halves the money that the Government gives universities to top up course funding that otherwise comes from tuition fees. It may be a relatively small amount of money in the Government’s mind, but will have a catastrophic impact on music and arts subjects at the Higher Education level in England.
The ongoing impact of Covid-19 on musicians
Frances also highlighted the importance of dignity at work and the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has been a huge challenge to working people and musicians have been on its economic frontline, unable to work due to lock down restrictions,” she said.
“Too often this government left the self-employed high and dry. Now ministers must step up to give arts, culture, entertainment, and festivals the support we urgently need,” she added.
That support includes an insurance scheme to make sure that festivals and events can happen, and financial support for freelancers in England via the Cultural Recovery Fund in line with Scotland and Wales – key MU lobbying asks.
No going back to business as usual
“Covid didn’t invent inequality,” Frances told delegates, “but it made it a whole lot worse. In Boris Johnson’ Britain you pay a high price for being Black or a woman or disabled or working class, not just in our pay packets and jobs, but homes and health too.”
That’s why one of the TUC’s key campaigns is decent sick pay for all employed workers. Two million workers don’t get sick pay – and while the level of sick pay a worker gets depend on their contract, many rely on the UK minimum statutory sick pay. At £95.85 a week, it is one of the lowest in Europe.
And it’s why over 50,000 people have signed their petition calling on Government to guarantee decent sick pay for every worker.
Working together for a fairer future
Other TUC campaigns are calling for a pay rise for key workers – “They cared for us, it’s time we cared for them” – and a “nationwide programme to create good, green, unionised jobs including culture and entertainment.”
Plus the TUC will be stepping up the campaign for an Employment Bill, demanding guaranteed hours, a ban on fire and rehire, a £10 minimum wage, and trade union rights and freedoms.
“We are a growing movement. Membership is up four years in a row. So we are ambition, we know there is real strength in unions, and that this union has led the way,” Frances told MU members.
She ended with an important reminder for all of the MU’s activists and members: “Be proud of the work you’re doing, proud of your union, and be proud of being part of a movement dedicated to winning workplace justice. Stay strong, stick together, solidarity to all.”
The MU’s 39th Delegate Conference was held on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 July – find out more by reading our round-ups of day one and day two.