On Wednesday 18th November, I was due to attend a hearing at which the Certification Officer (CO) would determine if the MU EC’s decision to extend Horace Trubridge’s term of office was legal. I was looking forward to seeing a resolution to this divisive and antidemocratic episode within the MU’s history. Over the past months, the episode was discussed by many members, numerous committees within the MU and was even picked up by the National Press.
I have always passionately felt that the MU is the only hope for British musicians, and it is only through organising ourselves, including holding our leadership to account, that we will see improvements to our working lives. It is vital, therefore, that we stick to our democratic principles and stand ready to challenge anything that threatens these.
On 12th November, the CO wrote to inform me that she had been told by the MU’s solicitors that the EC had passed a resolution that morning rescinding their decision to grant an extension. I was delighted – until I read the small print.
In their announcement rescinding the extension, there has been no admission that it was unlawful, and there is no indication that a similar extension will not be granted again. I expressed these feelings to the CO, and she has temporarily adjourned the hearing until a later date.
My argument hinged on the MU Rules and the relevant Laws, but for many who contacted MU Members for Change, the more important aspect of this was the lack of democracy. The idea that the General Secretary and the Executive Committee of our union would attempt to blatantly bypass democracy, in such an underhand way, upset a significant number of members.
As a brief aside, we should also recognise that the EC set the salary for the General Secretary. The MU’s accounts for 2018 are published here, and 2019 here. What these accounts show is a jump of 36% in total salary and benefits package received by Horace Trubridge between the two years:
2018 – £131,555
2019 – £178,815
The role of General Secretary is undoubtably an important and high-pressure role, but this is a substantially higher salary than is received by most other General Secretaries:
Equity General Secretary – £120,531
Unison General Secretary – £126,480
GMB General Secretary – £147,000
NUJ General Secretary – £101,370
BFAWU General Secretary – £70,376
All figures taken from 2019 published accounts.
Horace Trubridge is £31,815 ahead of the nearest comparator here, the GMB. It’s worth highlighting that the GMB has around 620,000 members compared to the 32,000 in the MU.
Returning to the matter in hand, the MU had an opportunity tonight to notify the membership of the decision to rescind the extension granted to Horace Trubridge and apologise for an unfortunate misinterpretation of the Rules and the relevant legislation. Many of the members I know would, in all likelihood have applauded the display of humility that this would have shown. Instead, Horace Trubridge issued an election address informing the membership of his intention to stand again. There is a question mark around whether a candidate for General Secretary should be using the Union’s resources to issue an Election Address – but that’s a fight for another day!
Whatever the reasons are for the cancellation of Horace Trubridge’s extension, the most important thing is that members have won back the opportunity to vote in an election. That alone is a significant victory for democracy and a victory for activism within the MU.