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How the Union Works

The Musicians' Union is a trade union run for its 30,000 members.

This section details the structure of the organisation as well as giving information about the various ways in which you can get involved in the MU's committees and sections.

Statement of Core Values

This statement sets out the Musicians’ Union’s (MU) core values, and the rights we want to protect.

The UK music industry has been facing unprecedented social and economic changes.

It’s hoped that this document will help remind us that whilst we may be divided on individual issues from time to time, there are fundamental beliefs and values that we all share.

The statement

The Musicians’ Union is the UK trade union for all musicians.

We are here to organise employed and self-employed musicians working in every area of the UK music industry, and in music education, for their mutual protection and advancement.

Our role is to maximise the employment, engagement and overall income of musicians – that means securing the best possible rates for the largest number of musicians.

We work on improving musicians’ status at work, pay, skills, rights, royalties and working conditions.

We lobby government at all levels and campaign on a national and international scale on issues of relevance to our members.

We actively oppose all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age, or other status or personal characteristic.

The health and wellbeing of musicians is of paramount importance to us and we work to ensure that they are not put at risk while working. We care about our members’ mental health as well as their physical wellbeing.

As a trade union, democracy and consultation with members is a fundamental part of how we work. We believe every member should have the opportunity to influence MU policy.

We are here to protect and advise members in times of need, and promote their interests and wellbeing at all times, in all ways.

Structure: National, Regional and Sectional

The MU has a National Office in London which houses the majority of the specialist MU Officials, as well as the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretaries. 

Please see Who is Who page for more details.

In addition, the MU has six regional offices which are the first point of call for members. Please see your regional page for news events, and contact details.

The Executive Committee is made up of elected members from the six regions and is the MU’s main democratic body. The minutes from the Executive Committee meetings are available to all MU members.

The MU also has a number of Sections and Section Committees which cover the different areas of a musician’s work and which MU members can join.

People understand what a union is once they’ve needed to access the services of a union, when they’re in trouble. I understood what a union could do for you because my dad was a union rep at the local yard. He was a roofer and a builder. So I understand the basic charter of any union.

James Dean Bradfield, Manic Street Preachers

Role of the Executive Committee

The MU, like all other trade unions, is a democratic organisation, governed by its members through a system of representative democracy.

Union members are elected as delegates to the Union’s Conference and onto representative committees. Decision-making takes place at Conferences 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 MU 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 MU’s objects are set out in Rule I.

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, so 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 and is responsible for the administration of all correspondence to and from the EC and for the Union between EC meetings.

Role of the Regional Committees

Each of the MU’s six Regions has its own Regional Committee (RC).

Rule III.3 states that candidates for election to the RC’s must have been members of the MU for at least one year prior to the date that nominations close. Each RC has 20 members who sit for a two-year term of office.

The RC is responsible for MU activities within the Region, it considers motions submitted to the EC under Rule VI.1.b and motions submitted directly to the RC under Rule VI.2.b.

While an RC has the authority to administer the affairs of the Region, it does not have a national remit and should it wish to amend national policy it must submit a motion on the issue to the EC under Rule VI, or submit a motion to the MU Biennial Conference.

Role of Chairs and Vice-Chairs

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

The EC currently chooses three Vice-Chairs, 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 has a casting vote as well as an ordinary 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. Although 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 MU 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.

Although 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.

MU Sections

Sections are networks of members, set up to keep the Executive Committee informed of developments in different areas of musicians’ work.

They are organised around sectors within the music industry to reflect the work you do:

  • Live Performance Section
  • Teachers’ Section
  • Music Writers’ Section
  • Orchestra Section
  • Recording & Broadcasting Section
  • Theatre Section

Each Section, or network of members, elects a Committee that meets regularly with the MU officials who look after the corresponding area of work. Committees are democratically elected every two years and meet regularly to talk about issues affecting them. These could be working practices, rates or something new.

As a Section member, your expertise enables the Union to take a stand on important issues that affect you.

A musician’s work is varied and MU members work in many different ways. To respond to this, the Union has ‘Sections’, which act as focus groups for musicians working in areas such as live performance, music teaching, recording, composing, orchestras and theatre.

These Sections are vital in informing the work of the Union and helping to shape Union policy. Each Section has a democratically elected Committee that meets in order to discuss stakeholder issues and, where appropriate, make recommendations to the Union’s Executive Committee.

Stand for an MU Section Committee

Nominations for all of the Section Committees, except the Orchestra Section, now take place in March every two years and are subject to ballot if required. Those who wish to be considered for the 2020/2021 period will be able to apply in late 2019.

We particularly welcome a diverse membership of Section Committees. Committee members are expected to attend meetings at least twice a year and will be reimbursed for any travel expenses and/or loss of earnings where applicable.

You can seek nomination for more than one Section Committee and existing members of Committees are welcome to stand again. The only criteria being that you are active in the relevant sector.

If you need any advice or assistance in seeking nomination then contact your Regional Organiser who will be happy to help.

Join Your Section

To join one of the Sections, and be part of the network of musicians, edit your profile or contact your regional office.

Membership is open to any member who earns all or part of their living from the area of work that the Section covers.