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  • Writer's pictureNaomi Pohl

What you can expect from me as your General Secretary

I have been thinking a lot about what I stand for and what I would bring to the Musicians' Union if I was elected as General Secretary. Here are my promises to you.

In my manifesto, I talk about three core values that would move the Union forward. We should be:

United - a strong member-led union representative of all musicians across the UK who will be proud to belong.

I will aim to bring musicians together and ensure every member gets their say.

Open - a fully accessible, accountable and democratic union which prioritises transparency and communicating with members.

You can expect openness from me. I will be visible; I will be present; I will be accessible; I will be straight with members and in negotiation.

Modern - a progressive, well-informed and up to date union; fit for the music industry of today and tomorrow.

I want to lead a progressive Union that thinks ahead, forsees and prepares for changes in the industry and in technology, that uses every opportunity and avenue to make the lives of working musicians better.

It would be easy for anyone who has gripes with the way the Union has been in the past to label me as part of the establishment and therefore more of the same. I'm not. Yes, I want to preserve and build on all the things we do so well as a Union. We are punchy, we strive to get the best deals for members and our Officials work hard and will often go the extra mile to help. Our activists are dedicated and care passionately about representing their colleagues. However, I also want to change the Union for the better. I can see where change is needed and I want to shift our culture so that we are more inclusive of all musicians, wherever they are based and however they make music.

Other candidates have talked about:

The General Secretary's salary. It would be easy to promise a massive pay cut as a campaigning tactic but there is some context to bear in mind. Firstly, there is a pay structure at the Musicians' Union which is determined by the Executive Committee and negotiated with the GMB Group who represent our employed staff and Officials. A new General Secretary cannot slash his or her salary significantly without upsetting this rather important apple cart. I will not undermine the pay of my colleagues who work incredibly hard for members and have collectively negotiated for pay and conditions over many decades. That said, I would commit to staying on my current salary for 3 years and for the final 2 years I would take the same pay increase as other staff. This would close the gap between Secretariat* salaries and those of other MU staff in senior management roles. I would also advocate all Secretariat salaries being bench-marked against other equivalent roles in Unions and the music industry, a process which has already been discussed, plus being published and not privately negotiated. This is an Executive Committee decision ultimately, however, so I would work with our EC members to achieve this.

Members' subscriptions. Yes, these should be reviewed and I am committed to ensuring that members get value for money and that the Union breaks even. Breaking even means a secure future for our Union. Money should not be wasted; we should wring value out of every penny of members' money that we spend. However, the EC sets subscription levels annually and a subscriptions freeze or cut is not in the gift of a new General Secretary. The General Secretary will lead the Union and advise the EC but must consult and ultimately some decisions will be made by the EC that go against Secretariat recommendations. We should listen to members on this and our subscriptions levels should be reasonable so that they don't stand in the way of members joining or remaining in membership. This is why we introduced the Disabled Musicians rate, following an MU Conference motion, and why we offered a subscriptions holiday in 2020.

Please come to the MU's online Regional Nomination Meetings which take place this month. You will need to pre-register. If you believe in the Union, and if you want to see positive change, then getting involved in the process of electing a new General Secretary is vital.


* The term 'Secretariat' refers to the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary of the Union.

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