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Frances O’Grady at #MUconference: "Together we will win"

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady spoke to members at the MU Delegate Conference about the power of being in a union and the challenges facing us all.

Frances O'Grady speaking

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady spoke to members at the 36th Biennial Delegate Conference about the power of being in a union and the challenges facing us all.

The private copying exception victory is a win for workers. “An important break on the money men who see copyright less as a safeguard for artists, and more as a burden on business”.

But there are still challenges out there. Illegal downloading and pirating, underlying why support for the Fair Internet For Performers campaign is so important”. Frances also talked about bullying and harassment, which affects many musicians, in particular women. And low pay – 60% of musicians earn less than £30,000 a year, half under £20,000 a year.

The pressure is going to get even worse. “That’s why your Work Not Play is so important. Let's just be clear about this. Music is not your hobby. It's your profession".

Austerity is affecting musicians. “Over the last 5 years we’ve seen huge cuts to frontline arts organisations from the British Youth Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Phil, Liverpool Phil, Manchester and a number of grassroots groups too. All with their funding slashed,” said Frances. “Now we know the BBC is in danger”.

“These cuts are a false economy”. For every £1 we spend on arts and culture, we get £2 of growth, regeneration and tourism back. “Our creative industries sustain millions of jobs and generate billions in economic benefit. The music industry alone is worth £4billion in Gross Value Added. The problem is we have a Conservative Government that knows the cost of everything, and the value of nothing”.

“Schools have been badly hit by those cuts” said Frances, “and it is kids from poor families, disadvantaged families, who bear the brunt. Think about all that musical talent, that’s what kills me, that’s being wasted. The TUC is right behind your campaign to support music teachers”.

“Politically, we face the most difficult climate since those dark days of the 1980s,” Frances told Conference. She asked everyone to look at the proposals in the Trade Union Bill, “the biggest attack on workers and union rights for 30 years”. “If you think we’re going to give up our freedom to protest, if you think we’re going to surrender our human right to dissent against workplace injustice, if you think we’re going to roll over and go quietly then you better think again.”

“There has never been more need for strong and effective trade unionism.” Frances called on every member to get involved, “We have got to recruit, organise and mobilise for change. I’m not going to pretend to you that this is going to be easy or it’s going to be quick. But we have got to make that goal of social justice our number 1 priority. We’ve got to have confidence in our convictions. We’ve got to be proud of being trade unionists. And I believe that if we remain united, if we work together, if we stick together then it may be a long old road and it won’t be easy but together we will win”.

Published: 30/07/2015

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