The £23 billion London Olympics: too poor to pay its musicians

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You are an impecunious London musician; you are approached by one of the richest men in the country with a total wealth in excess of £20,000,000,000 (twenty billion pounds). You patron explains that he is too poor to pay you, but asks you to perform for him for free. Would you: (a) smile and thank him for his custom and agree, or (b) refuse, and try never to have anything more to do with him?

It was route (b) for a number of professional musicians who were approached recently by the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) and told that Locog has a policy not to pay any of the artists who are appearing for it at the opening and closing ceremonies, or at various Olympic-themed parties taking place all over London in July and August, and shown emails confirming that this was Locog’s policy.

The Musicians’ Union says, “if it turns out to be true then it flies in the face of assurances that we have been given regarding the engaging of professional musicians during games time. Furthermore, it would appear to be a breach of the Principles of Cooperation that LOCOG agreed with the TUC.”

To explain that reference: the Principles of Co-operation were a document signed between the TUC and the Olympic organisers back in 2008. Not heard of it? It hasn’t been much in the news, admittedly, perhaps because it commits the organisers to nothing more than the most general platitudes. EG, to take an example close to my heart. The document says “The [Olympic] procurement processes will require contractors to uphold employment law and encourage them to promote effective industrial relations dialogue between employers and recognised unions, apply industry agreements, and to encourage a positive role for recognised unions in the workplace.”

I doubt the procurement process did in fact encourage any such thing. It would be pointless getting contractors to sign a document saying they will uphold the law, because the document has no enforcement mechanism. The law is the law is the law; whether employment laws are breached or not will depend on statute law which is the source of concepts such as unfair dismissal, not on the contract with Locog.

More to the point, if the Olympics had indeed been used – through procurement policies – to promote union recognition, then why is it that in construction (which accounts for 50% of the total Olympic spend) Locog did not require the employers to recognise trade unions, but traded most assiduously with companies involved in anti-union blacklisting?

Hat tip: Corporate Watch

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