Freelance musicians fear for future amid uncertainty

Clare Hoskins, a freelance oboist, poses for a photograph in central London on March 20, 2020; UK freelance musicians, among the vulnerable self-employed during the coronavirus crisis, fear they have been "thrown under a bus" by the government

UK freelance musicians, among the vulnerable self-employed groups during the coronavirus crisis, fear they have been "thrown under a bus" by the government after being excluded from a state wage guarantee.

They are among the many freelancers who are not covered by the UK government's coronavirus economic proposals, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday.

To add to their concerns, many of them will be renters not helped by a potential three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners either, also announced by the government.

"We're bitterly disappointed to be honest with you," Horace Trubridge, Secretary General of the Musicians' Union, told AFP.

"I think the government's thrown self-employed workers under a bus.

"I don't understand how they could offer on the one hand such a generous settlement for salaried workers and yet expect self-employed people to live on about a tenth of that.

"It's crazy, doesn't make any sense at all."

Under the government's plans, salaried employees can claim up to 80 percent of wages, up to a limit of £2,500 ($2,900) during the current pandemic.

However, the scheme has not been applied, so far, to the self-employed.

The move has caused alarm, not only among freelancers, but also some MPs.

Former Conservative Minister Steve Barclay said it was "absolutely necessary" to give support to the self-employed.

"Without it, the entire British economy will suffer a crisis -- almost a fatal crisis in economic terms," he told the BBC.

The general secretary of the TUC union, Frances O'Grady, assured that her organisation would "exert a lot of pressure" on this issue.

"We have members from both the construction and creative industries and this will be a real test for them," she told the BBC.

Quizzed at Saturday's Downing Street briefing, Environment Secretary George Eustice, said it was for The Treasury to keep the matter "under review".

- Concerts and lessons cancelled -

Oboe player Clare Hoskins said she has had several cancellations in recent days.

"And then we learned that the Anglican Church would no longer organise public ceremonies, which means that I also lost my job as a professional chorister," she said.

"It's hard enough to live on, so if we can't give lessons or concerts, we'll quickly be short of money."

While waiting to know when she can resume concerts, Hoskins rehearses a piece by Benjamin Britten.

What she misses the most is "not to be with other people, to sing in the choir".

The future remains uncertain but "I imagine there will be plenty of top musicians when we come back because we will all have had plenty of time to practice," she laughs.