MU General Secretary Election Addresses

Greetings Friends, I hope you’re well and in good spirits. Referring back to the previous post, this is the second MU GS election address, this time from current Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl. Do feel free to ask questions of the candidates and to get debates going on the blog.

Dear MU members,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to set out why I am running to be your General Secretary and how I can move the Union forward. 

I want to be clear that I see myself both as the stability candidate – taking forward much of the work we’ve done in recent years to secure the Union’s future – and also a candidate for positive change. There is much work I want to do to ensure we are the best possible Union for our members; representing their interests robustly, making them proud to belong and constantly evolving to take account of changes in the music industry and wider world. 

Here is my manifesto:

Let’s Push Things Forward: a united, open and modern union. 

It is my purpose and passion to listen to and represent members and promote collectivism. I will fight to achieve meaningful change on behalf of all musicians and improve their rights and income. I have over 20 years’ experience of working in arts sector trade unions and I believe I am the best person to take the union forward as we deal with the Covid recovery and Brexit. 

I have the experience, track record and relationships needed to lead the union effectively, coupled with a drive to improve what we do for members. 

United – a strong member-led union representative of all musicians across the UK who will be proud to belong. I will ensure all members are able to influence union policy wherever they are based and however they make music. I will promote collectivism and show members that their activism really counts. 

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

Modern – a progressive, well-informed and up to date union; fit for the music industry of today and tomorrow. I will ensure we are responsive to a rapidly changing working environment and always putting members first. 

I will build on the many relationships I have in the wider trade union movement, with music industry bodies, MPs and decision makers and put these to good use for members. 

Some of you may know me on an individual level because I’ve represented or advised you, or been involved in collective bargaining in your workplace. I’ve worked in a range of key roles during my time at the MU and have represented musicians in every area of work. 

I have spearheaded a high profile campaign against sexual harassment in the music industry and supported hundreds of survivors through the Union’s SafeSpace service. I lobby and campaign on a wide range of issues: the value of music education, unfair streaming royalties, the impact of Brexit and against composer buyouts. 

Over many years, I have represented musicians in the collective bargaining process in recording and broadcasting, music education, orchestras, theatre, ballet and opera. 

Having worked for the MU for 12 years, working my way up to Deputy General Secretary, I know the organisation inside and out. I love the Union and I know how it operates from what we spend on our people and buildings, to how we engage with and consult members at every level. I have the operational knowledge to safeguard the future of the union and have begun a process of cost-saving and streamlining. Our focus should be serving and organising members, responding quickly to their needs and delivering the best range of services and benefits possible. 

Music as a profession will always have to adapt to change; from changing Governments to evolving technology. The Covid-19 crisis and Brexit have created the toughest conditions for musicians in history and we are working harder than ever to influence decision-makers in Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“Throughout this time and looking forward, my focus is to build the union’s strength and improve the working lives of every single musician in the UK, wherever they are and however they make music.”

Please reach out to me if you’d like to discuss my plans. I would love your support. See, follow me on Twitter @NaomiPohl or email me at Thank you.

Published by MU Members for Change

MU Members For Change is a broad and diverse coalition of members within the Musicians’ Union. It exists to facilitate communication between members; to aid the delivery of member voice to the Executive Committee; and to promote democracy within the Musicians’ Union. Enquiries should be sent to:

8 thoughts on “MU General Secretary Election Addresses

  1. Hi Naomi,

    It’s great to see you engaging with MUM4C.

    I’m no longer directly involved in running MU Members for Change myself, but during the run up to the Certification Officer Hearing where members sought to challenge the extension granted to the current General Secretary’s term of office, we wrote to you numerous times but received no reply.

    It would be easy for members to jump to a cynical conclusion about your motivation for engaging with activist groups such as this one now that your own election campaign is underway, but it feels important to give you a chance to set the record straight – so, why now? And why not before?

    Secondly, activists within the MU and other TUs understand what it’s like to raise their heads above the parapet and risk victimisation from their employer, or in the case of MU members, often unprovable victimisation from future potential employers. What experiences of your own can you share with us of raising your own head above the parapet as a trade union activist outside of a your roles as a paid official?



  2. If you were GS Naomi, would you pursue a policy to have more members classed as employees? Not only would this enable protection in future pandemics (with the possibility of furlough) but it would also empower members to speak out against inappropriate behaviours in the workplace, without the risk of losing their livelihood.


    1. Hi Seemab, I would be led by the members in the particular workplace. In general, our self-employed members with portfolio careers have been fiercely protective of their self-employed status. When the National Insurance rules changed a few years back briefly, we had members doing a one-off three hour session and then being issued with a P45 afterwards! And with IR35 we see members taxed as if employed but with none of the benefits. If the majority of freelancers in a particular area of work felt they should be employed, and we formally consulted them to ensure that was the case, I would take legal advice and see what was possible. I am a firm believer in consultation. Thanks for your question, Naomi


      1. Dear Naomi,

        Thank you for engaging with me, especially since I’m not an MU member. Forgive me but I wasn’t referring to the genuinely self employed, I was meaning those musicians who already work under an established mutuality of obligation as Mike called it, such as in classical circles like opera, ballet, theatre and orchestras. Do you believe now, with the benefit of hindsight, that the MU moving these musicians towards self employment has been detrimental in the long term as they have been unable to benefit from furlough? And how will this impact your plans going forwards to prevent a similar loss of income in a future pandemic?

        Do you feel the time has come to stop allowing managements to save on NI contributions at the expense of musicians feeling protected enough to speak up in their workplace, without the risk of losing work? For example, in your response to Mike you talked about whistleblowing and the impact it had on your day-to-day working life; I’m wondering if your approach to speaking up would have been the same had you not had a day-to-day working life to go back to.

        I have to take issue with your approach to consulting on issues affecting individual employment protection, especially in arenas which are predominantly white men. You are asking for this population to be altruistic towards empowering individuals from minorities, at their own expense. In ignoring this issue I believe the MU is complicit in allowing hostile environments for minorities to continue. Your response hides behind the ‘democracy’ of a non diverse workforce whose agenda is to maintain the status quo. In my view, this is the action of a guild and not a union, who would be pushing for equality, even if it meant losing members in the short term.


  3. Hi Mike,

    The General Secretary’s proposed term extension was an EC matter and not for me to comment on in my role as Deputy General Secretary. The Chair of the EC made a statement at the time. You and I did have a chat on the phone at one point early on in the Covid crisis, I recall, as you wanted to give feedback on various MU matters and I think you were involved with MU Members for Change then.

    I was asked if I would like to post my manifesto on here and I am pleased to have any opportunity to engage with members. I want to share details of my campaign and plans for the Union as widely as possible. I hope to unite members if elected and make sure the MU is a Union every musician can be proud of, engage with and influence.

    As regards sticking my head above the parapet, I have done this repeatedly. I don’t shy away from sticking up for what I believe in or for colleagues. I have almost exclusively worked for arts & entertainment Unions, since I was in my early twenties, which I hope shows my commitment to the Union movement. I don’t think being a paid Official in any way undermines my commitment and activism. I have given the best part of my life so far to my work and I go above and beyond. I was a whistleblower in one workplace at a young age, making a complaint to the Board about the CEO which was not an easy thing to do and made my day-to-day working life very challenging. I did it on behalf of the whole staff. It is not the only time I’ve raised my head above the parapet at work in that way.

    Thanks for your engagement and I hope to see you at one of the MU Regional Nomination meetings in January.



  4. Hi Seemab, in response to your comments, there are two separate and distinct issues here. In terms of pursuing employed status for an orchestra, I could and would only do this with the explicit mandate of the players involved. The Union acting unilaterally to change the employment status of members without thoroughly consulting them would be wrong in my view. We have to involve affected members in decision-making in any workplace action. On your second point about diversity and representation in orchestras, the MU is very much committed to this and we promote various ways in which improvements can be made (e.g. screened auditions). We also work with Arts Council England on this issue. I am personally extremely committed to making the union itself more inclusive and representative of all musicians, whatever their cultural heritage, background, wherever they are based and however they make music. This is at the heart of my campaign and would be a central focus for me if I was elected. Thank you again for your engagement and I hope there is a point soon when you may feel inspired to join the union. As Morris has said in his address, this election process may itself encourage musicians to join the MU and get involved in its democracy. Naomi


    1. Dear Naomi,

      I agree there are two issues here. For example, say you had an orchestra who were keen to remain self employed, but a member of that orchestra had been wronged (unfair dismissal and discrimination say) and wanted to bring a claim in a tribunal, which could lead to it being determined the musicians in that orchestra are employees. I’m wondering how you would balance the agenda of the individual with that of the collective.

      The point I feel inspired to join the union will be determined by the progress made by the successful candidate in making the union more inclusive and representative of all musicians. Could you report what is the current percentage of black and ethnic minority members on the executive and also the percentage of black and ethnic minority staff employed by the union?


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