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Lobbying the Government for theatre musicians

Whilst the Government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme was welcomed by the Union as a significant step forward, there are several major gaps that we want to see addressed. 

With respect to musicians engaged on West End, Regional and Touring theatre productions which have been suspended due to Covid-19, we are lobbying the Government for the following (in order of preference):

1. For the £50k cap on the self-employed scheme to be removed; OR

2. Self-employed people who earn over £50k to be able to claim up to the cap; OR

3. If neither of the above can be achieved, then we will look again at the furlough scheme and see if there is any possibility of it applying to you. We are taking advice on which employment status we can argue applies to you and will come back to you with all the pros and cons before balloting you on your wishes. Please keep an eye on your email as we may need to get in touch with you at short notice.

We have spoken to SOLT and UK Theatre and they have expressed their strong support for this lobbying position.  They are keen that the musicians they engage should be offered income support from the Government along with other workers.  They will provide any evidence or supporting statements we need from them in order to effectively make the case to the Government.

The other area of concern, which may be of relevance to you, is that of Limited Companies.  We would argue that self-employed people who run as limited companies and pay themselves in dividends, not PAYE, should again be able to claim income support up to the £50k cap.

And finally, we will be lobbying to ensure that no musician is worse off as a result of having taken parental leave, adoption leave or long-term sick leave, during the last three year period.  

For more information and to support our lobbying efforts, see our page on Taking Action to Protect Musicians.

Our negotiations with SOLT and UK Theatre

As the closure of theatres and productions has developed, we've been in negotiations with SOLT and UK Theatre over the outcome of such closures. 

SOLT/UK Theatre communicated the three options their members would consider (under the terms of our agreements) and these were consulted on with the West End Sub Committee and Theatre Section Committee:

1. That the shows give notice as per the terms of the agreement

2. That the shows remain open but nothing is paid as they believe force majeure is applicable due to ‘public calamity’

3. That the shows go into a sort of suspended animation in which players are paid 50% of the basic fee for the next four weeks – these payments would be an advance against a notice period if the show then chose to close.

If a show did then close, any statutory or contractual entitlements due would be paid. This includes notice pay – which is two weeks minimum – and as per the redundancy and severance clauses within the MU/SOLT agreement which are not present in the MU/UK Theatre agreement.

Our most recent response

The MU relayed back to SOLT/UK Theatre on Friday 20 March that the third option was by far our preferred option. 

We know, however, that all three options are open to SOLT and UKT members under the contract, and that where shows are forced to close, option one would have to apply.

We will ask that musicians are given first refusal for any work once the show reconvenes – this will be more likely when a show is placed under ‘suspended animation’ as per option three than where contracts are terminated, however we expect those musicians affected by this to be given first refusal.  We will strongly argue that point.

For those members working under contract to Bill Kenwright Ltd, monies have been paid to those members and their shows have been cancelled for the time being.  

Be assured that this situation is not what any of us want and is not where we ever expected to be.

With any specific enquires, please contact your Regional Office.

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