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How the Union works

The EC and other Committees, membership categories, MU Stewards, Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons

The role of the Executive Committee (EC)

The Musicians’ Union, like all other trade unions, is a democratic organisation, governed by its members through a system of ‘representative democracy’ similar to, but not the same as, the UK’s parliamentary democratic processes. Union members are elected as delegates to the Union’s Conference and onto representative Committees. Decision-making takes place at Conference and through the actions of the network of Union Committees. By far the most important of these Committees is the Executive Committee (EC).

Rule V.1 of the Union’s Rules states that, “subject to the Rules, the EC has all the powers of the MU and all powers necessary for or conducive to the attainment of the objects of the MU including the power to delegate its authority.”

The EC is the national governing body of the Union and EC members have a collective responsibility for the decisions and the policies of the EC. EC members are not accountable individually for the work of the Union and have no individual decision-making powers. All decisions are the result of debate and vote and all EC members are expected to uphold such decisions. Although EC members do not sit as delegates for their Regions, they are elected on a Regional basis.

The EC makes major decisions that can affect the working lives of many musicians. It often deals with sensitive issues such as negotiating strategy, employment policy and Benevolent Fund requests. Therefore, each EC member must adhere to the concept of collective confidentiality in the interests of the Union and its members.

EC members are presented with numerous reports and other documentation. It is the duty of EC members to keep abreast of all the issues that may be likely to appear on its agenda from time to time. Individual EC members take their responsibilities very seriously and always put the collective good of the Union and its members first.

The General Secretary acts as secretary to the EC; he/she is responsible for the administration of all correspondence to and from the EC and for the administration of the Union between EC meetings.

The role of Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons of MU Committees

All MU Committees elect, from their own number, a Chairperson and a Vice-Chairperson.

In the case of the Executive Committee it currently chooses to have two Vice-Chairpersons, but this is not recommended for other Committees. In most cases the Chair or Vice-Chairs are elected at the first meeting of the year. However, some sub-Committees and working groups may choose to elect a Chair on a meeting-by-meeting basis.

The primary role of the Chair (and Vice-Chair in the Chair’s absence) is to keep order at the meeting. This involves making sure that everyone who wishes to has a chance to speak without interruption and that the agenda is dealt with in a business-like and efficient way.

The Chair should remain impartial during debate – if the Chair wishes to put forward an opinion he/she should request permission of the meeting.

When summing up a debate, the Chair should put across both sides of the argument with equal emphasis.

Currently, the Chair of the EC does have a casting vote. Should a casting vote be afforded to a Chair of a Union Committee, other than the EC, it should only be used when the members of a Committee are equally divided on an issue and there is an equality of voting.

Whilst it is not a requirement, it is normal practice that a casting vote, when used, is cast in support of the status quo. It is the duty of the Chair to uphold the Union’s Rules and the standing orders and/or constitution of the Committee.

In some cases, the Chair may be asked for a ‘ruling’. In complex matters relating to interpretation of the Union Rules, Chairs are recommended to suspend discussion on the agenda item and seek guidance, through the Secretary to the Committee, from the General Secretary.

Between meetings, Chairs and Vice-Chairs are expected to liaise with the Secretary or Administrator of the Committee over such issues as items for the agenda of the next meeting and progress on action points taken at previous meetings. The Chair and Vice-Chair have the same responsibility as other Committee members. They are not authorised by the EC to act or speak publicly on behalf of the Union. All paperwork and issues for consideration by the Committee must be sent to the Committee Secretary for distribution to the members of the Committee.

Should a member of the Committee wish to suggest an agenda item they should notify the Secretary of the Committee, who will inform the Chair and Vice-Chair.

Whilst it is sensible to have an experienced and knowledgeable Chair, it is not good practice to keep the same person in position year after year, no matter how competent that person is. Hopefully, this will be self-regulating but Committees should bear it in mind when selecting candidates for Chair and Vice-Chair.

Motions to the Executive Committee

There are three methods of making a point to the relevant Union Committee. Rule VI of the Rules explains how a point (correctly referred to as a motion) can be submitted.

a) A motion moved at a Regional AGM (normally held in September), if accepted will be sent directly to the EC. The motion will require a mover and a seconder and after debate will be put to a vote by the Chair. Should the motion be adopted by the AGM it is sent, on behalf of all members in the Region to the General Secretary for consideration by the EC. The result of the EC’s deliberations will be conveyed to the Regional Committee and members in that Region will be informed through the Regional Newsletter.

b) A motion may be submitted for consideration by a Regional Committee if it is supported by at least five members of the Region, who must provide their names and membership numbers. If accepted by the Regional Committee the motion will be forwarded by the Regional Organiser to the General Secretary for the attention of the EC. The result of the EC’s deliberations will be reported to the original supporters via the Regional Committee.

c) A motion may be submitted in writing directly to the EC if it is supported by at least 20 members, who must all provide their names and membership numbers. The motion should be forwarded to the General Secretary, who will present it to the Executive Committee for its consideration. The results of the EC’s deliberations will be conveyed to all of the supporters of the motion.

Please note that, under Rule XII.2 (free) members are not entitled to move, second or support motions to the Executive Committee or Regional Committees.

The role of the MU Steward

Full details of this role can be found here.

Free Members

Rule XII, which governs the Union’s policy on Free Membership and Concessionary Membership where a member is no longer working, was revised at the 2007 Conference to ensure that it remains compliant with age discrimination legislation. The rule allows those members who meet the following criteria to acquire Free or Concessionary Membership status, at the discretion of their Regional Committee.

Note that the rule applies to all members, no matter when they were granted their Free or Concessionary Membership.


A member is entitled to apply for Free Membership under Rule XII 2 if:

–  Their subscriptions are not in arrears; and

–  They have been a member for at least 20 continuous years; and

–  They are permanently unable to follow any employment.

Alternatively, they may apply if:

–  Their subscriptions are not in arrears; and

–  They have been a member for at least 35 continuous years (although the EC has a discretion to waive
this condition in exceptional circumstances), and

–  They have retired from the profession of music.

A member is entitled to apply for Concessionary Membership under Rule XII 3 if:

–  Their subscriptions are not in arrears; and

–  They have been a member for at least 35 continuous years, and

–  They have retired from the profession of music.

Alternatively, a member in full time education will qualify for Concessionary Membership if:

–  They notify the Union that they are in full-time education, which for new members will be apparent from their application form, and

–  They provide proof of student status when requested to do so.

Free Membership benefits

Free Members under Rule XII are entitled to:

–  Be eligible for financial assistance from the MU Benevolent Fund, including funeral grants.

–  Be eligible for legal advice or assistance, but only in connection with work undertaken, contracts signed or other activities which took place during the period of their full (or concessionary) membership, and subject to the established criteria for such advice or assistance, and

–  Receive Musician, Regional Newsletters and the Musicians’ Union Diary.

Free Members are not:

–  Eligible to vote in Union elections and ballots, accept or support nominations for positions on Committees or delegations, move, second or support motions or recommendations,

–  Entitled to public liability or equipment insurance, or

–  Entitled to contract or music business advice.

The range of benefits, services and privileges attached to Free Membership is at the discretion of the EC, which is entitled to exercise its discretion differently between the two categories of Free Member.

Concessionary Membership benefits

Concessionary Members under Rule XII are entitled to the full range of benefits, services.


Applications for Free or Concessionary Member status should be made to Regional Organisers.