Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour, Salford and Eccles 5:26 pm, 2nd March 2021

As Members will be aware, Salford is a proud cultural and creative destination. Staring out across the Salford docks in 1983 at an industrial wasteland that had been ravaged by deindustrialisation, a group of councillors were proud of their city and they had a dream. They took a gamble and that dream became MediaCity. However, the precarity of the sectors that rebuilt our city could now break our city, as the livelihoods of thousands hang in the balance.

Many workers in Salford are insecure or freelance. For example, a third of people working in media alone are freelancers. However, even before the pandemic hit, too often so-called off-payroll working effectively made people in this sector zero-rights employees, with none of the rights of being an employee or the tax advantages of being self-employed. I draw Members’ attention to the National Union of Journalists’ freelance rights charter, which sets out a series of ways in which we could give greater protections and security to such workers.

The pandemic makes interventions to resolve insecurity more vital than ever. Millions have been excluded from any of the Government’s financial support packages. The Chancellor has repeatedly ignored their cries for help and they are desperate. If that was not enough, freelance media workers in England are also set to lose out on further training and reskilling opportunities as the Government plan to axe the union learning fund, directly threatening the Federation of Entertainment Unions’ training project—one of the few places media and creative freelancers can access free skills training.

Will the Minister assure me today that she will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in his Budget statement tomorrow, first, an immediate emergency grant for those affected, secondly, new monthly arrangements while restrictions remain in place—in complete parity with the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme and self-employment income support scheme—thirdly, retrospective payments for full and final settlements to deliver parity and fairness for those excluded from meaningful support and, finally, furlough extension for as long as it is needed? The failure to do any of those things not only means the deliberate engineering of social injustice into the fabric of our workforce, but will undermine Salford’s future as a media and cultural powerhouse.