In the latest UnionDues episode, Musicians’ Union General Secretary Naomi Pohl talks us through the big issues facing her union’s 34,000 members.
And it’s quite a tour. From saving orchestral and choir jobs at risk because of government cuts to BBC (and others’) funding, to tough negotiations on tax and royalty arrangements, meeting the potentially devastating challenge of AI and persuading engagers that it’s in their interest to pay fairly and promptly.
What comes through strongly is Naomi’s appetite for the work and determination to get the best deals possible for members.
Working in a sector worth £7bn, there should be some scope for everyone to get a reasonable share of the spoils – but of course, the world’s not like that. So building on the work of Tom Gray, and his Broken Record campaign, and a subsequent Parliamentary enquiry into streaming, the union is keeping the pressure on with their #FixStreaming campaign. (Tom, btw, has recently been selected as the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion – good luck to him in the election when it comes.)
Naomi also discusses the Work Not Play and Fair Play campaigns, and the increasingly successful efforts to get the better venues to publicise their bona fides in terms of prompt and fair payment to musicians.
But the challenge is significant. How do you rein in firms like Microsoft who are basically saying copyright protection doesn’t apply to anything in the public domain that is “ingested” by AI? (See here for an illustration) Naomi expects much litigation on this, although combining with others in the creative sector to achieve a change-of-heart by the tech giant would be preferable.
In our conversation we also touch upon the ongoing campaign to save jobs in ballets and orchestras, the Beijing Treaty and the protection it could give to AV workers, and the successful campaign to change tax arrangements for orchestral musicians.
We also touch on Naomi’s time with the Writers’ Guild union, prior to joining the MU.
In a top-drawer #thought4theweek Glasgow University’s Professor of Work and Employment Mel Simms reflects on being taken out of her comfort zone in the search for new understandings on the future of work – and how the Musicians’ union and others are in front of the curve by some way. More details on Gilbert Houngbo and the United National International Labour Organisation are here.
You can access the latest and all previous episodes of UnionDues at bit.ly/DuesUnion.
You can support the podcast by buying us a virtual coffee at ko-fi.com/uniondues
UnionDues is part of the Labor Radio Podcast Network – a portal through which you can access over 200 labor and union themed podcasts and radio shows.
Thanks for reading/listening/liking/sharing/subscribing.
Season’s greetings to those celebrating!