Canadian Musicians' Union Urging Governments to Support Music Community Hit Hard by Loss of Work

The Canadian Federation of Musicians has written an open letter to the federal government urging support for musicians due to an unprecedented loss of work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to contain the spread of the virus, governments are rightfully pleading with people to stay out of public spaces as much as possible. Just this morning, the Government of Ontario declared a state of emergency and forced the closure of non-essential businesses, including places like bars and venues musicians play. Individual cities in Canada, such as Calgary and Red Deer, have also declared a state of emergency and closed non-essential businesses. While this is the responsible thing for governments to do in the face of this rapidly-spreading health crisis, it sadly has a devastating impact on musicians' ability to earn a living.

"The arrival of the COVID-19 virus in Canada has created the need for emergency measures, from the closure of offices and implementation of work-from-home policies, to the restrictions on large gatherings to the outright cancellation of music events such as the Junos, concerts, theatrical performances, orchestral performances, and touring," the union's letter reads. "While the CFM understands these necessary and unprecedented steps, they have created a devastating loss of planned work and needed revenue for not only the musicians involved, but for the organizations who have engaged them and now suddenly find themselves without ticket sales. That is revenue that cannot be recouped, and indeed, may have a long-term effect on the viability of those organizations and musicians, and subsequently the industry as a whole.

"In order for the industry and those individuals to survive this crisis, there must be appropriate support from all levels of government for musicians working in traditional employment arrangements as well as the precarious 'gig economy' freelance players. The CFM is requesting that government adopt emergency measures in this exceptional situation, to provide security to counteract this critical loss of revenue, through whatever means necessary.

"These steps may include a waiver of the one-week waiting period for EI benefits (in the case where the musicians are entitled), to expanding the benefit to include freelance workers who provide their services as self-employed contractors, to ensuring that compensation is made available for musicians who have had gigs or tours cancelled for both lost revenue and other expenses, such as the hundreds of dollars, or thousands paid to USCIS as petition fees for P2 visas for US entry. Consideration must be made as well for proper funding to help musicians and symphony/theatre organizations recover, as well as assistance to stimulate and revitalize the industry once the virus has been contained and/or eradicated."

The CFM also says it is in the process of gathering data in order to demonstrate the loss in financial terms.

The musicians union is asking everybody to contact their local union office to confirm all loss of work.

To read the full open letter, go HERE.

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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