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Musicians’ Union calls for action on sexual harassment and abuse

A theatre (Matt Crossick/PA)
A theatre (Matt Crossick/PA)

The Musicians’ Union has called on the Government to take action to protect those in the music industry from sexual harassment and abuse.

The union says it has received new reports from a group of women from a promotions company who have revealed “shocking testimonies of ill-treatment, sexual harassment and assault” allegedly at the hands of their employer.

Victimisation and sexual abuse is “rife” among artists and behind-the-scenes staff, the union added in a statement.

The Government should “act urgently on its pledge to strengthen protections for those affected by harassment at work”, it added.

The union said that as the music industry recovers from the pandemic and those who lost their jobs seek new employment, many could find themselves more vulnerable to exploitation.

An anonymous music industry worker, who said they were sexually abused at work, told the Musicians’ Union they “never felt safe”.

“Like many of the other survivors I know I’m still traumatised by my experiences.

“When you choose to work in the music industry it’s often because you have a real love of the arts.

“You want to be surrounded by passionate, creative people – not entering a workspace when you worry you may be assaulted by your employer.

“More needs to be done to protect people in the industry both on and off-stage.

“I’m hopeful that through sharing stories like ours that we can help implement industry-wide positive change.”

Singer Rebecca Ferguson said that within the industry there is an “imbalance of power and people using their power and their position to abuse people with less power”.

“We need to be able to call these things out for what they are with no fear, or it will never change,” she added.

2017 IAAF World Championships – Day One – London Stadium
Rebecca Ferguson said there is an ‘imbalance of power’ (Adam Davy/PA)

“We have future generations to think about; there is a huge responsibility on all of us working in the creative arts to create a better and safer environment for the youth.”

She added she hopes “adequate legislation is introduced to protect people working within the creative industries”.

Research published by the Musicians’ Union in 2019 suggested almost half of the workers in the industry had faced sexual harassment.

Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “It’s unacceptable that so many artists, musicians, employees and freelancers have suffered abuse at work and that many have left the industry as a result.

“With more women stepping forward to share their experiences, it’s vital the industry adopts a zero-tolerance approach to ensure everyone in the creative arts is protected as they return to work.

“We’re pleased to see the Government is recognising the seriousness of this issue after having recently convened a series of important creative industries-wide meetings to ensure positive action is implemented.

“Now we ask for action: we need the Government to strengthen the law to prevent sexual harassment at work before it happens.

“Together, with survivors, and other trade bodies like UK Music who are committed to ensuring change happens, we want to create a movement to ensure the music industry is a safe place to work for everyone.”

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Everyone has the right to feel safe at work, whatever industry they are in. Allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the music industry are concerning.

“I met with musicians and industry partners to help those facing these issues. We called for commitments from the sector such as cross-industry codes of conduct and the guarantee of better signposting to support available. It is vital that we all keep up the momentum in tackling this issue.”

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