skip to main content

What is a Motion and How Do You Write One For MU Delegate Conference?

Trade unions are full of jargon. One of our favourites is the word ‘motion’. But, like most bits of jargon, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Photo ofMaddy Radcliff
By Maddy Radcliff Published: 10 November 2022 | 12:30 PM Updated: 20 March 2023 | 4:56 PM

A ‘motion’ is a trade union way of asking for something. At MU Delegate Conference, it’s how you ask the Executive Committee, the governing body of the MU, to do something on your behalf.

Any member can write a motion for MU Delegate Conference to debate and vote on. Find out more about that process in the first of our four-part Young Workers’ Month series on getting involved in Conference.

Motions have a consistent format, structure and word count to make sure everyone reading them understands what you’re asking for and why. This helps members debate your motion, and ensures that the Executive Committee and MU staff know exactly what you want them to do.

Part one: introducing your motion

Part one of your motion is the introduction. It should explain the problem you want to solve. It can be something you want the MU to “welcome” and build on. Or it can be something the union should “regret,” “deplore” or “denounce”.

You can also include statistics and evidence to back it up, but keeping it focused, short and punchy will help get your motion selected.

Here’s an example from a motion on Universal Basic Income from 2021:

During the pandemic, freelance musicians have had very little support from the government at a time when a significant portion of their income has been lost. MU stats show 38% of our members have not been able to access any government support during the pandemic and that 19% of our members are considering leaving their music careers due to the financial instability caused by the pandemic. One desperately needed solution is the introduction of a universal basic income.”

Part two: explaining why it’s a trade union matter

The second part of your motion should be a statement of the trade union values and principles that make it a trade union issue. It answers the question ‘why is this an MU issue?’

Going back to our UBI example, the second part of the motion looks like this:

“Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the principle of giving a fixed amount from the government to every citizen. If musicians could access UBI they could have support during their creation process between records, shows or other related engagements. UBI would support musicians through periods of illness where they are unable to undertake work and would work alongside other key welfare support packages to ensure everyone is on a level playing field, so disability benefits, child benefits etc. would still continue.”

It explains the specific difference UBI would make and relates it back to why the union exists – to protect and support musicians.

Part three: what’s already out there

Next, your motion should run through any existing debates, policies or resources that contribute to a solution. Does the MU or do any partner organisations already work in the area? Give it a hat tip here.

In the Universal Basic Income example, this was the Intermittent Artist Status in France:

“Conference notes the ‘Intermittence Du Spectacle’ provided in France whereby if musicians fulfil minimum required hours of work a year, they can be protected in periods without work and recognises that this may be an interim solution.”

Part four: what you want the MU to do

Finally, your motion should end with your proposal – the change you want to see happen.

Proposals are usually introduced with a phrase like “Conference calls on the Executive Committee to…”, but you could also use “recommends”, “proposes”, “urges”, “demands”, “insists”, or “resolves”. For example:

“Conference urges the Executive Committee to express full support for the introduction of UBI and to campaign for its introduction throughout the United Kingdom.”

If you have more than one ask, you can use bullet points to make them clear.

Take a look at more examples of successful motions in the 2021 Carried Motions report.

Giving your motion the best chance of success

Once you’ve written your motion, you need at least five members from the same Region as you to support your motion. It then goes to your Regional Committee who review and accept, reject or amend it.

Your motion is more likely to be selected if it’s:

  • Topical
  • An important political or industrial issue
  • New to the MU, or something that hasn’t been debated recently
  • Includes a clear action
  • Concise and in plain English
  • 150 words or less if possible
  • Likely to lead to an interesting debate.

The main reasons motions miss out on making it to Conference are to do with structure – for example, just focusing on describing a problem or not including a clear ask or set of solutions. Motions can also be rejected if they include inaccurate information or quotes, make personal attacks, or are too polemical.

Not sure if your motion idea will make it through?

Contact your MU Regional Office for support. They can help you turn your idea into a motion that makes it all the way to Delegate Conference – and makes MU policy that improves the working lives of musicians across the UK.

Look out for more advice on how to write a motion in the next issue of The Musician magazine, where you’ll also find a list of important dates and other information about Delegate Conference 2023.

Photo ofMaddy Radcliff
Thanks to

Maddy Radcliff

Maddy Radcliff is Campaigns & Social Media Manager at the Musicians’ Union (MU). She has worked on national political and industrial campaigns on issues ranging from working in the EU post-Brexit to decent pay. Recent highlights include the Fix Streaming campaign, a basic income for the arts, and the push to save Government funding for higher education arts and music. She has also worked on the MU’s Safe Space initiative since its inception, looking at ways to combat sexual harassment in the music industry. Alongside campaigning, Maddy works with the MU’s 5000 members aged 30 and under to build their voice in union structures and raise issues that affect young musicians. She does this while managing social media for the MU, with over 70,000 followers. Say hi on Twitter @maddyradcliff and LinkedIn

Get support as a student musician through MU membership

Access expert music industry advice and services whether you are a music professional in full-time music education, an occasional gig player, a part-time recording artist or looking to kick-start your career as a musician.

Benefit from many member services

Join as a student 

or explore all our membership rates

Get support as a student musician through MU membership

Continue reading