MU GS Election Address from Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams for Musicians’ Union General Secretary

Sarah Williams – Ambitious for Musicians

I’m proud to introduce myself as the strongest candidate for General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union. With 25 years’ professional performing experience at the highest level – combined with unwavering union activism and committed local government leadership – I’m the only candidate who can speak for musicians with authority, gravitas and a proven track record of achieving excellent results. Of the candidates standing for General Secretary, only I can truly deliver for musicians.

I firmly believe that now is my time to stand for General Secretary, and every step of my journey has brought me to this point. Born in Cumbria, I came to London via brass bands, youth orchestras and postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music. I’m an experienced teacher, from whole-class to conservatoires including London colleges and the Royal Conservatoires in Wales and Scotland. As a bass trombonist I’m a top-flight professional performer across genres, including touring bands, West End shows, symphony orchestras, big bands, TV and session work. I know almost every aspect of being a musician and music educator.

Why am I the best candidate to lead the Union at this time? I offer a unique combination of the highest musical credentials with a deep inside knowledge of the Union and demonstrable political clout. As well as this, a woman has never led the Union – and I believe it’s about time one did.

I currently serve as Vice Chair of the Union’s Executive Committee (EC). In this role I have driven through reforms including salary benchmarking for the Union’s senior staff – and if elected I would insist on my salary being reduced by at least 25% compared to the current level. My contributions to EC debates are forthright but constructive, and I’m never afraid of difficult or challenging conversations. I’m also a regular and highly effective spokesperson for the Union in the media, and I have formed close working relationships with politicians and industry partners. In addition, I’ve frequently been an integral part of workplace negotiations with employers through the Union, both in the West End and in teaching settings.

Outside of the Union I’m a local authority councillor, part of a team overseeing a budget of £230 million. I also served for two years as Vice Chair of Alexandra Palace, the charity that runs London’s famous palace and park, chairing a finance committee overseeing an annual revenue budget of many millions plus multi-million-pound capital projects. I’m no stranger to big budgets, serious strategic planning and finely-balanced decision making – all with serving the community at its heart.

My Vision for the Union

The pandemic has seen musicians suffer both financially and emotionally. Our profession has had its toughest time in a generation.

I fully supported the decision to draw down £1 million of the Union’s reserves to create a hardship fund. We can’t replace lost work, but we can help those in extreme financial crisis. Our focus now has to be on keeping musicians working safely, as well as exiting positively from the Covid variation agreements that were the only realistic way to keep us working during unprecedented uncertainty. More than this, I want musicians to be ambitious for their careers and optimistic about the future – I’ll fight for a music industry that offers hope and opportunity for today’s musicians, as well as the next generation.

It’s a time of flux, and the Union needs stability to continue to support all our members. In the recent past the Union has become much more financially stable, but we still run at an annual deficit. With senior pay benchmarking and other cost-saving measures, I will remedy this.

Musicians are used to portfolio careers. Even those in employed positions will additionally teach, play in bands and chamber groups, do outreach work and play on recordings. We as a Union must never lose focus on our members, providing support in all those settings. Our political lobbying and industry relations are absolutely vital, but we must not lose focus on our core role – to stand up for musicians working in every area of the music industry and in music education.

I know the Union well – what we are doing fantastically, and where we could be doing better. From this starting point I would seek to embrace and understand every technical detail of our organisation. I would spend my time working with and alongside our regional offices and specialist departments, building a thorough knowledge of every project, service and initiative we offer.

Many members and musical colleagues already know how committed I am to the Union, and this includes listening and responding to members – whether through elected committees or other less formal channels. Members will find me an approachable and inclusive General Secretary – one that rejects false factional lines and instead works to build strong and powerful consensus. If you give me the chance to be General Secretary, I’ll work with strength, diligence and determination – just like musicians do.

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: mumembersforchange@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “MU GS Election Address from Sarah Williams

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for setting out the reasons you want to be General Secretary for the MUM4C blog, it’s great to finally see some engagement from a sitting EC member.

    After Naomi’s blog post, I asked her about her reflections on the General Secretary term of office extension, and she unequivocally passed responsibility to the EC. So I now ask the same questions of you.

    Firstly, while it’s great that you’re now engaging in a memberled activist group, why did you not do so earlier when we wrote to you numerous times about the proposed GS extension? 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?

    Many of the questions we asked about current EC practices remain unanswered – and the process of ignoring the clear will of the membership must have cost the MU significant sums of money in obtaining legal advice attempting to shore up a clearly anti-democratic decision.

    When the extension was cancelled, members were told that it was because the General Secretary didn’t feel the extension would allow enough time to complete the “project” (https://musiciansunion.org.uk/news/a-message-from-mu-general-secretary-horace-trubridge).

    As a result of this, members have never heard anyone from the EC discuss whether they still believe the proposed extension was lawful and right or whether they now believed it to be unlawful and antidemocratic. This despite that fact that even Horace Trubridge’s Wikipedia page now states that the decision to rescind the extension was taken following legal advice.

    So, where do you now stand?

    If elected, would the MU’s approach to union democracy change?

    How would you allow members to challenge decisions taken by the EC so that they can ensure those elected are accountable for decisions taken?

    Thank you

    Like

  2. Dear Sarah,

    I posed this question to Naomi Pohl on her website but haven’t received a response (although I appreciate it’s been Christmas celebrations for some).

    In the job spec for the general secretary role, there’s no mention of promoting equality and diversity. Could you explain why please?

    Thank you. Seemab

    Like

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