Congress notes that before the pandemic, the creative industries accounted for more than two million jobs across the UK and contributed around £112bn to the economy. Despite its success, the sector remains host to a disproportionate level of precarious employment, long working hours, low pay, harassment and discrimination.
The pandemic has exposed the fragile nature of the arts and culture sector in Britain, with a disproportionate impact on already disadvantaged groups, and, crucially, the significant sums made available by the government to “rescue” the sector from collapse do not address its underlying structural problems.
These include a steep fall in public and business investment in the arts since 2008, and the fact that the sector’s workforce is overwhelmingly freelance, with many ineligible for recent government schemes to assist the self-employed.
Yet, before lockdown, the UK’s creative sector was growing at five times the rate of the wider economy and in 2018 contributed £111.7bn to the exchequer – more than the automobile, aerospace, oil and gas industries combined. This, in spite of the UK consistently spending less on its cultural life than our European neighbours.
i. growing poverty and inequality in the UK as a result of austerity policies in recent years
ii. cuts in funding to the benefits system directly affecting those working in the creative industries
iii. increasing insecurity across the creative sector due to the impact of Covid-19 and many creative workers being ineligible for pandemic-related support schemes
iv. the expansion of the gig economy in the sector, which has led to an erosion of workers’ rights and conditions
v. that universal credit has failed to address these issues
vi. that many creative workers have been doubly affected by precarious working in both the cultural sector and in other jobs taken to support a career in the arts.
Congress further notes that the government’s £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund has largely been spent on buildings and venues. Very little has directly supported the industry’s workforce beyond the funds ringfenced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in recognition of the failures of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
Congress agrees that our national museums and galleries are important parts of our nations’ heritage and cultural life. The collections they manage are free for all to view and should remain so. They are key to our tourism industry and one report prepared for the Arts Council England suggests that, per year, the sector as a whole produces £1.45bn for an overall public investment of £0.66bn, and the sector raises £3 for every £1 of public investment. Their cultural value to the country is incalculable.
However, Congress notes that successive governments have significantly reduced the Grant in Aid (GIA) funding available for these institutions, requiring them to increase revenue through fundraising, retail activities, special paid exhibitions, sponsorship and more. Congress notes the catastrophic impact that the pandemic has had, and the likely ongoing effects due to loss of tourism and increased pressures on the availability and level of future sponsorship funding.
Congress also notes that rates of pay for staff in museums and galleries are, frankly, woeful and several institutions have undertaken restructures, at least in part as a response to the pandemic, with consequent job losses and increased work pressures on remaining staff. Congress agrees that the funding model for the institutions is a significant factor in the impact of the pandemic and more broadly.
As a result of the “Keep Music Alive” campaign and pressure from the MU, the DCMS Select Committee recently conducted an inquiry into streaming.
After many years of arguing that streaming is hugely unfair to musicians and performers, the committee’s conclusion that music streaming needs a ‘complete reset’, so that artists, performers and songwriters who currently receive “pitiful returns” are fairly rewarded, was very welcome.
Most musicians earn a very low royalty on streaming due to their contract with their record label, and session musicians earn nothing at all. If streaming was dealt with as radio is, the majority of musicians would earn more from it. Streaming services are, essentially, a sophisticated version of radio. Consumers using Spotify to stream a track do not feel they are purchasing the music they listen to in the way they do when downloading from iTunes.
Congress believes that it is time to campaign for fundamental reform in the creative industries in order to redistribute wealth, income, power and decision-making.
We welcome steps taken by unions and campaigners in the sector to address these issues, including the publication of “Making Culture Ours”, “Performance for All” and other initiatives.
Congress calls on the General Council to support:
a. expanded investment in arts and culture for the wellbeing of all – including increasing cultural funding from 0.6 per cent of GDP to at least the European average level of 1 per cent
b. ensuring that public funding for arts and culture meets minimum agreed standards of pay and employment
c. dignity at work for all through renewed lobbying for an extension to employment tribunal claim time limits and the implementation of ILO C190
d. promoting the role of creative arts education in society
e. ensuring an equitable and non-discriminatory balance and distribution of funding
f. democratisation and regionalisation of funding and decision-making structures and promoting democratic accountability across the creative and cultural sector
g. increased funding for the arts and entertainment industries including at local authority level
h. national, regional and local authority support for community art centres that provide facilities such as studios and performance spaces for creative arts, crafts, music and theatre
i. campaigning for additional, no strings attached, financial support for all of the national museums and galleries
j. campaigning for a real-terms increase in Grant in Aid for all national museums and galleries
k. campaigning for an improved funding model for the sector that reduces reliance on paid exhibitions and sponsorship and safeguards and improves access for all
l. government to legislate so that performers enjoy the right to equitable remuneration for streaming income
m. government to refer cases to the Competition and Markets Authority to undertake a full market study into the economic impact of the major music groups’ dominance.
Congress further notes:
1. While issues of low pay and job insecurity are complex, universal basic income (UBI) could improve the lives of those working in areas most exposed to precarious working, low wages or automation including the cultural and creative sector.
2. Others have serious reservations based on its potential to drive down wages, increase precariousness, and undermine unions’ bargaining power.
Congress therefore calls on the General Council to:
i. co-ordinate input from unions to set up discussions where available research on UBI can be explored as a potentially important part of future social policy including its impact on disabled people, costs and potential for knock on cuts in other areas of social provision, and the alternative of fundamental reform of the social security system
ii. consider a pilot basic income guarantee for creative workers, offering a simple, universal payment to all artists each month, akin to the scheme soon to be trialled in the Republic of Ireland.
Seconder: Musicians’ Union
Supporters: FDA, Artists’ Union England, Public and Commercial Services Union, Prospect