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MU Representation

Orchestra Stewards

If you need help with a professional musical problem or issue that just affects you, we can provide you with personal assistance.

This might include being owed money for performing or teaching, getting the right rate for a particular job, copyright issues, advice on contracts, employment or legal issues. Initially your inquiry should be made to your Regional Office.

MU Orchestra Stewards

MU Orchestra Stewards are musicians elected to represent the interests of their band or orchestra. The main roles and functions of a Steward are:

  • To represent the MU members of the orchestra.
  • To try to recruit the non-members.
  • To ensure the terms and conditions of engagement (ABO/MU, BPI, PACT or in house Agreement) are observed; and
  • To be the eyes and ears and occasionally the mouthpiece of the MU within the orchestra.

Stewards are drawn from the orchestral workforce, elected by their Union peers. Normally, the Steward is elected for three years, but he or she can be re-elected without restriction.

Being a Steward

To function effectively, the Steward needs to establish a good rapport with the members that he or she represents, and with the full-time MU Officials who have responsibility for the orchestra.

It is also essential that MU Stewards develop a good working relationship with the management. This does not imply that the Steward will be “in the pocket” of the management, but rather that both sides respect each other’s position. Keeping up to date with management’s plans for the orchestra enables effective Stewards to establish plans for MU members going forward.

The Union Steward is a legally recognised position, and he or she is entitled to reasonable time off for trade union duties without loss of earnings. These duties might include MU meetings, such as the Orchestra Section AGM or time spent on other advisory orchestral Committees. Stewards also have additional protection in disciplinary matters, which means that they cannot lawfully be victimised for legitimate Union activities.

MU Stewards receive a modest annual commission based on a percentage of the annual subscriptions paid by the MU members of the orchestra. Another benefit to the MU Steward is that their own annual subscription is reimbursed by the MU. Without the valuable resource of its Orchestral Stewards, the MU would be unable to function as effectively as it does, and would be less able to play an active role in the continuing survival and development of the UK’s orchestras.

Member representation

Members may need individual representation or support, for instance with disciplinary issues or grievances. Collective issues, such as rates and conditions for certain types of engagements, may need resolving. Contractual matters, such as overtime for late finishes or payment of the correct media fees, may also need to be enforced by the Steward. Where issues arise, Stewards listen to the concerns of all members and can often solve problems on the ground before they become serious.

Conciliation, arbitration and dialogue are clearly preferable in dealing with unresolved matters. However, Stewards should never give advice to members on pursuing or defending a claim. Such activities are strictly regulated, and all potential claims should always be dealt with by an MU Official who has direct access to specialist lawyers. If there are issues of concern or dispute that may give rise to a potential claim, these should be referred to the appropriate Official at the earliest available opportunity. Pastoral support and assistance with Disciplinary, Grievance or other types of casework arising in the workplace should be dealt with by the Stewards’ Regional officials.

Roving Stewards

The role of Roving Stewards is similar to that of Orchestral Stewards and West End Stewards. The main difference is that Roving Stewards do not have a fixed placed of work. Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Reporting freelance orchestra and theatre engagements to the MU’s Orchestra and Live Music Departments
  • Reporting good and bad practice of fixers and venues
  • Disseminating up-to-date information to members in their network
  • Being a point of contact for members, and act as a go-between with the fixer / venue / management if appropriate
  • To be an advocate for the Union

The Roving Stewards pilot scheme, launched on 1 September 2015, runs until 31 December 2016 and is open to members of the Freelance Orchestras Committee and the Theatre Section Committee.

Training opportunities

All newly-elected Stewards are provided with induction training. Training is available to the Steward either in-house or through the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). Courses include negotiating skills, public speaking, employment and contract law, dispute resolution, equality issues and pensions. For more information, contact the MU Orchestras Department via