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Equity to vote on industrial action at English National Opera (ENO)

Members in the ENO chorus to be balloted on industrial action after they reject dramatic cuts to chorus and stage management contracts.

  • Members in the ENO chorus are to be balloted on industrial action after they reject dramatic cuts to chorus and stage management contracts.
  • ENO’s proposed changes would slash salaries by 40%.
  • Ballot to open on Thursday 4 January.

Following proposals of dramatic cuts to chorus and stage management contracts at the English National Opera (ENO), Equity members in the ENO chorus are to be balloted on industrial action in the new year. The ballot will open on Thursday 4 January and will include the potential for strike action.

The move comes as Equity members reject ENO bosses’ plans to slash chorus salaries by 40%. The huge cut results from a proposal to reduce chorus contracts to cover just six months of the year. Stage management will also be impacted. These impacts are the result of plans to dramatically reduce the ENO’s opera season in London. Despite announcing that ENO will be establishing a new base in Manchester, management have been unable to confirm what their plans for activity in the new base will be and have refused to guarantee any involvement in Manchester for their existing artistic workforce. Equity has been negotiating with ENO bosses to reach an agreement that protects the workforce and delivers a fair wage, but talks have now stalled.

Hilary Hadley, Equity Assistant General Secretary for Live Performance, says:

“Our members cannot accept ENO’s current proposals as such loss of income would be disastrous for anyone. Members have now given us clear direction to ballot on industrial action. We hope that we can soon reach an agreement with the ENO that will see the chorus and stage management workforce get the work, pay and terms and conditions that they need to survive.

“The ENO’s proposals short change audiences and opera in London and Manchester.  Manchester will suffer from stripped back productions without the ENO chorus – serving Manchester audiences only half the ENO experience. At the same time, drastically reducing the ENO’s opera season in London will be hugely detrimental to the provision of affordable and accessible opera in the city.”

Ronald Nairne, ENO Chorus member and workplace representative for Equity says:

“To have our income reduced by 40% would be devastating, making it near impossible to live on ENO salaries. Meanwhile the company is asking us to deliver the same product in a much shorter window. There are alternative ways in which £12m a year could be spent to produce more opera, reach more people, and keep the workforce in meaningful, sustainable employment.

“There is currently no suggestion that we the chorus, the orchestra or the technical teams will be involved in anything at all in Manchester. Cuts to the chorus and stage management will do nothing to level up culture. Instead these cuts will leave the chorus in London with half a job and Manchester audiences without a full experience of ENO. We are asking ENO management to be more creative, and remodel a company that can deliver opera by everyone, for everyone.”

Equity has rejected the English National Opera’s current proposed changes and are instead proposing the following:  

  • A seven month permanent contract, with paid holiday to be taken in addition to the seven months.
  • No worsening of terms to the current chorus house agreement.
  • An annual vocal maintenance payment to cover singing lessons, coaching and support with vocal health when the chorus are not working on ENO shows.
  • A regular weekday off each week, enabling the chorus to plan for other work.
  • Chorus to be given first refusal of any work in Manchester, on union negotiated terms and conditions.
  • No compulsory redundancies.

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