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Musicians Union EC Has Disbanded The Equalities Committee

The EC has disbanded the Equalities Committee.

All members were sent a written letter today. Me, Jackie Clifton, and Elena Piras were not sent a copy (as we had resigned in protest at the last meeting on Thursday 3rd Nov 2016 over the Union’s constant stonewalling of the Equalities Committee work).

MU General Secretary John Smith’s letter is below.

I’ve heard from other Equalities Committee members who are also deeply unhappy with the decision.

Not least, the letter contains factually inaccurate information.

Chief of these is the idea that me, Jackie, and Elena resigned due to a ‘mistaken premise of [the Equalities Committee’s] role and status’.

This is simply untrue; we resigned because the EC had overturned several key, long standing pieces of work that the Equalities Committee had done.

Second is the accusation that the Equalities Committee was meddling with the work of the Sections – I can only assume this accusation is related to our discussion about the EC overturning the will of Conference about the Sections motion from Conference 2015, which was in actual fact written by Equalities Committee member Elena Piras (as an Equalities Committee initiative) thru the Scotland & Northern Ireland Region.

This Motion was argued successfully at Conference on the firm understanding that the spirit of the motion also included the Equalities Committee (and that the word ‘Sections’ had been deliberately used because that’s how the Equalities Committee had been officially classified up to that point). We won the vote.

Aside from the factual inaccuracies contained in John Smith’s letter, the chief concern is that the EC is simply now ‘reclaiming’ the Equalities Committee as a sub committee and ‘appointing’ members in order to have more control over it (and thereby avoid having to deal with awkward, legitimate requests from the existing committee that the EC has no intention of allowing).
Deeply deeply deeply troubled by this. Not because the EC doesn’t have the remit to move committees around as it sees fit, but the accusation that the Equalities Committee wasn’t ‘functioning’ correctly – the thing is, every legitimate thing we have asked for, and been denied over the 8 years or so, has a solid evidential paper trail – from Equalities Committee Minutes thru to redacted EC Minutes which all demonstrate repeated rebuttals and sidelining of the Equalities Committee work over its whole lifetime (including during its original inception as a sub committee of the EC).

The idea that the Equalities Committee cannot ‘function’ independently, and can only ‘function’ properly as a sub committee of the EC is, quite frankly, ludicrous. As stated above, the EC was denying exactly the same Equalities Committee recommendations when it WAS a sub committee before. To infer that this decision is somehow a disciplinary decision is unbelievable, and simply doesn’t hold water.

The MU has been using the Equalities Committee for lip service. We resigned from the committee on that basis.

Far from the apparent assurances at the bottom of the letter that the Union will ‘continue to give high priority’ to the work of fighting discrimination, we resigned because it HASN’T been.

Sadly, I have no reason to believe this will change without a sea change from the EC on the matter of Equalities.

MU Rule 2h states that the MU’s objects are to promote equality for all including through: (i) collective bargaining, publicity material and campaigning, representation, Union organisation and structures, education and training, organising and recruitment, the provision of all other services and benefits and all other activities; (ii) The Union’s own employment practices. 

The Union has been negligent on following these objects; notably:

  • The absence of reasonable diversity among staff recruitment or any apparent plan to address this
  • The ongoing denial of reasonable requests by the Equalities Committee that the MU provide all MU staff, officers and officials, and MU committee members with basic Equalities Training
  • The ongoing refusal to take appropriate recommended steps to address the CHRONIC lack of BAME members on MU regional and other committees, and as Conference Delegates
  • Despite repeated requests over several years, the Musician magazine is not available to VI members until some weeks after sighted members receive a physical copy (and physical copies of the magazine are still sent out to blind and VI members) the recommendation has been that an accessible version is made available digitally but the MU insists on only making it available as an audio recording (there are several inherent problems with this format) 
  • The refusal of several requests by the Equalities Committee to remedy long standing audibility issues in the MU HQ Conference room with suitable sound treatment
  • A simple request to install appropriate handrails to the front of the building to help VI, and disabled members and visitors get safely up the steps has not been implemented 
  • A simple request that the front steps are kept clear of leaves in Winter to help VI, and disabled members and visitors get safely up the steps has not been kept up
  • The ongoing failure to set up a cohesive program to monitor membership makeup following the successful 2013 Conference Motion (which itself came about after several repeated recommendations to the EC to do this were denied over several years)
  • The EC’s overturning of 2015 Conference Motion 1 requesting Equalities Committee and Section Committee delegations and motions at the MU’s biennial Conference – this motion was written to address the lack of Equalities representation at Conference – we were informed at the last Equalities Committee Meeting that this was not being allowed (although no proper reasons for the EC overturning the will of Conference were given or forthcoming) This decision is in contravention of MU Rule V.1
  • A Communications Advisory Group was set up, and then pulled while in the middle of taking evidence for their report on Monitoring. The Advisory Group was set up to make recommendations as to MU website accessibility, to address said long term refusal (and then foot dragging) over introduction of membership monitoring, and to advise on the MU’s general communications. This after 3-4 years of MU sidelining, stonewalling, and ultimately refusal of an Equalities Committee recommendation that there should be VI input into the design and checking process prior to the new MU website going live; this never happened. This then led to embarrassed apologies being made at the 2015 Conference from the General Secretary and Chair of the EC along with other senior members of the EC, and  subsequently other senior members of staff. Subsequent discussions led to a commitment from senior MU staff to remedy the MU’s previous stonewalling in these areas by setting up the Advisory Group
  • The Advisory Group’s subsequent report on accessibility of the MU website was sat on for a year and then practically all recommendations were denied
  • Despite repeated recommendations over the past 4 years or so, the Union has been very reticent, and very slow, to develop publicity materials promoting equality for all (this has however finally begun to slowly change as of this past year)
  • The disbanding of an independent, member led Equalities Committee in place of an EC appointed sub committee – thereby losing all the expertise, and indpendence that has been built up in the committee over the past 8 years or so
  • To suggest that the current Equalities Committee is ‘not functioning’ is simply not true and smacks of an attempt to reign in, and effectively punish it for making recommendations that the EC, Secretariat, and staff do not agree with, do not understand, or refuse to allow. That there was no discussion of this with the Equalities Committee, and that nobody from the MU reached out to the three of us who resigned underlines how the EC has been treating Equalities as a chore to be managed as opposed to an OBJECT to be proactively promoted.