ENTERTAINMENT unions across the West Midlands have today (Tuesday March 24) called for urgent support for self-employed and freelance workers in the creative industries facing economic crisis because of coronavirus.
This comes as the government is considering ways to extend its new wage support scheme to the self-employed despite the significant technical challenges, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday.
Entertainers and musicians face the cancellation of gigs, music venues, theatres and festivals, across the UK.
The call from unions comes on the back of a new TUC report that says the current measures in place for self-employed workers are “inadequate” with many facing severe hardship over the coming months.
The report has called on ministers to extend the wage subsidy scheme announced on Friday to the self-employed. The TUC says this could be done through providing the self-employed with a guarantee of at least 80 per cent of their incomes based on their last three years of self-assessment tax returns.
The report highlights the example of Norway where the government is providing grants covering 80% of self-employed workers’ earnings. And Belgium where an income replacement scheme has been set up for the self-employed.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government took a big and important step last week with wage subsidies for employed workers.
“But millions of self-employed workers – from the creative industries to construction – are still facing a collapse in their earnings. Many won’t be able to meet their basic living costs without further support. Ministers must urgently beef up support for the self-employed.
“Large-scale wage subsidies are the best way to boost household finances, keep businesses running and help our economy bounce back after this crisis. All workers – both employed and self-employed – should have their wages protected.”
TUC Midlands, Regional Secretary Lee Barron, said: “The wage subsidy scheme announced by the Chancellor is a huge help for workers during this difficult time. However, the entertainment industry in our region is on its knees and the overwhelming majority of entertainment workers are worried sick.
“We need further action now for self-employed workers now. We are rightly proud of our creative industries in the midlands but if we don’t act soon we won’t have an industry and
With gigs and concerts cancelled across the country, Stephen Brown, Musician’s Union Regional Organiser, said: “Our members are having a desperate time of it now, almost every one of them has had all of their work cancelled. This means no income, and they don’t qualify for SSP nor the Government’s employee scheme where they get 80% of their pay.
“Universal Credit can’t immediately help them, if they qualify anyway, so many are facing destitution and that’s why the MU has set up a member’s Emergency Hardship Fund of £1million.
“To date, our members have lost £19million in earnings that we know of, so we are only scratching the surface. That’s why the MU is demanding a Universal Basic Income of £400 per week or 80 per cent of average income based on the last 3 years. The Government really need to step up to the plate on this one.”
MU Member and singer Karen Pfeiffer, who has a varied portfolio of freelance work as one half of an Anglo-German folk duo, said:“Through no fault of my own I am facing zero income for as long as care homes are closed, theatres and music venues are closed, festivals are being cancelled, and folk clubs don’t happen. I have zero income and I am very likely not eligible for benefits either.”