Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on artists and the arts and culture sector. The UK music industry – which is worth £5.2bn to the economy and enriches all of our lives – is on its knees. The Covid-19 crisis has decimated the live music scene. Most musicians are still not able to return to live gigs. It will be well into 2021 before the return to anything like normality. Almost 40 per cent of the MU’s 32,000 members have not been eligible for either the furlough scheme or the SEISS and so have been reliant on the pittance of universal credit or small handouts from hardship funds. Artists and their families are in severe poverty, living off savings if they have any and facing destitution. Many self-employed artists fall between the cracks and do not qualify for government measures, have had work for the foreseeable future cancelled and/or cannot access their studios due to safety and lockdown. A significant number work part-time as lecturers or in community arts and the short-term, temporary, precarious nature of this work means that they have essentially lost two streams of income as well as not qualifying for government self-employed support.
Congress recognises that the creative sector cannot recover without investment in both workplaces and workers. The government has responded by ploughing £1.57bn into the cultural sector, but the majority of this money is going to the companies and organisations themselves – not to the workers. Re-opening theatres, film and television sets and venues is not enough – government and the industry need to protect and preserve the thousands of people whose skills and talents are the basis of our success, and especially freelance and self-employed creatives. Without investment, the first to leave the sector are likely to be our BME, women, disabled and working-class talent, worsening the diversity of the sector.
Congress believes that a successful and sustainable return to work across the creative industries is contingent on four, interrelated pillars:
i. workforce protection – extension of funds to creative workers and action to fill the gaps in support provided so far
ii. safe opening – including ticketing subsidies, investment in digital content that pays creatives fairly and underwriting the insurance risk of TV and film productions
iii. protecting infrastructure – the £1.57bn in funding for the arts announced by the government must recognise the breadth of the sector and not just the elite or mainstream arts
iv. equality – no-one should be left behind in the recovery and additional funding made available to institutions must be attached to clear organisation-specific commitments to eliminate gaps in representation and pay.
Congress calls on the TUC to:
a. lobby the government to bring in a sector-specific support package to allow musicians and performers to survive this lengthy period of unemployment
b. campaign to highlight the fragility of the music sector in the UK
c. lobby the government for adequate support that addresses the needs of artists, including access to affordable studio provision
d. work with AUE and other culture sector trade unions to protect the sector
e. ensure TUC affiliates offer proper rates of pay for services and work they ask those in the arts and culture sectors to undertake
f. campaign against the impact of cuts on the arts and culture sector and initiate a network of trade unionists, community groups, local and regional organisations to develop a long-term investment strategy for the arts
g. campaign for investment and initiatives to support the whole arts sector to recover from the recent large-scale disruption due to coronavirus.
Congress endorses the four-pillar plan for recovery and supports efforts by creative workers to achieve a fair, safe and sustainable return to work.
Seconder: Musicians’ Union
Supporter: Artists’ Union England