In a debate on support for the culture sector on the first day of the TUC’s virtual Congress 2021, FDA President Vicky Johnson, speaking in support of a composite motion backed by the FDA, called for “immediate, no strings attached financial support” to secure the future of our national cultural institutions.
During her speech, Johnson also pointed out that the government’s public sector ‘pay pause’ was being imposed on “pay already frozen by 2020”, amounting to a real-terms pay cut in a sector with already low levels of pay, urging the government to implement better pay, and to announce a real-terms increase in Grant-in-Aid funding. She called on the government to act immediately “to protect our colleagues and to protect our cultural history, to protect the national treasures and our ability to learn from our history”.
Johnson reflected on the fact that while many of us had learnt to embrace hybrid and remote working throughout the pandemic, this was not an option for colleagues in our national museums and art galleries. “These colleagues cannot work remotely, they have to travel and attend particular buildings – often cold, draughty and poorly maintained buildings.” She argued that while we were able to access the collections of historical treasures for free, the government was unwilling to provide the financial support and structure necessary, so we were looking at “a sector that is facing crisis”.
She paid tribute to the contribution these institutions make to the economy, culture “and, latterly, the mental health of this country.” However, visitor numbers were “likely to remain below pre-pandemic levels for some years” and large amounts of revenue had been lost from “retail outlets and specially curated exhibitions” during closure due to COVID-19. These additional revenue streams had been carefully built up over many years.
Johnson described the effect on the sector as “stark” and reflected on the fact that many people working in the sector had had to leave due to “inadequate” furlough arrangements, stressing that the government had to act immediately to resolve the crisis.
Earlier on the first day, a composite motion on the climate emergency, which was supported by the FDA, was carried. The motion committed the TUC to campaigning for a comprehensive and fully-funded government plan to fully address the climate emergency.
The FDA's motion on standards in public life was also carried. The motion called on the Prime Minister "to immediately adopt all of the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the Ministerial Code, the business appointment rules and transparency in lobbying, as a first step in to restoring faith in standards in public life."
Finally, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said it was "an honour" to be re-elected to the TUC General Council for another term.
You can watch Vicky Johnson’s full speech from the culture debate here: