Coming hot on the heels of the revelation that over a million workers are employed on zero-hours contracts, the music industry is the latest sector to reveal the shocking increasing casualisation of the workforce.
The Government has slashed funding to the arts by 30% resulting in music and arts organisations closing, shedding workers, cutting pay, or moving staff onto casual contracts. However, the most recent issue causing concern for musicians revolves around the Government’s flagship Music Education Hubs policy.
The Musicians' Union is reporting that some Local Authorities have imposed further cuts on their music services alongside central government cuts, which has resulted in an erosion of pay as well as terms and conditions for their members who teach. They see a move to casual contracts which offer no set hours or job security, usually as a pre-cursor to outsourcing. There have also been reports that some services are imposing restraint covenants in contracts preventing music teachers from teaching in schools, even after they have left the service, a situation that may well backfire on employers in the event of a legal challenge by an employee.
In the Midlands, the MU has 3000 members, and approximately two thirds work in music education as part of their career portfolio, so this is a serious issue for many MU members. Not least, because most MU members earn less than £20,000 per year placing them firmly in the bracket of the low paid worker, so any pay cut or increased job insecurity could be damaging to them, the students they teach, and the wider economy – an economy that sees £4 generated for every £1 spent on the arts* demonstrating that cutting this sector is not good economics.
Stephen Brown, Musicians Union Midlands Regional Organiser, commented:
"Music teachers are dedicated professionals who have studied for many years to get to the standard they are at. This is not the glamorous or high reward end of the music business but nevertheless it plays a vital role in the education, cultural, societal well-being, and economic heartbeat of our nation. Our young people’s music education continues to be the envy of the world and for good reason, so the MU wants to keep it that way. Any moves to jeopardise this position comes at a risk. The MU is leading the way in championing music services and fighting to maintain them for the benefit of our members, young people and wider society".
" Musicians are being taken for granted, not rewarded for the work that they do and are yet another victim of this Government’s assault on working conditions and the squeeze on living standards and job security. The music and culture industry is both an important sector of the UK economy and also a vital component of our society. Musicians deserve better than continual job insecurity and undermining.
Unfortunately, the music industry is not alone. Over 300,000 care workers are employed on zero hour contracts. And these casual contracts have spread throughout the retail sector, throughout higher and further education, across legal services and in journalism.
But zero hours contracts are just one part of the problem. The construction sector is plagued by bogus self-employment, enabling unscrupulous employers to circumnavigate employment rights. And agency and temporary work is increasingly prominent leaving countless workers ‘underemployed’ and out of pocket.
The economic crash has was caused by financiers and the uber-wealthy. Yet the political Right have been brazen in using the economic failure as an opportunity to pursue an assault on workers conditions. Musicians, care workers, builders and shop assistants did not cause the crash. We must reject this Victorian casualisation of the world of work and instead seek a new economy based on quality jobs, job security and fair wages for all."