Equity members of the English National Opera (ENO) Chorus were informed last week that the company is proposing a catastrophic reduction in contract length and salary, and a further reduction in the size of its chorus.
The devastating proposals, which Equity rejects, include reducing the length of members’ contracts to cover just six months of the year, a 40% cut in salary and a proposed reduction in the size of the chorus. These plans will impede the quality and scale of ENO’s output, which is reliant on a highly specialist workforce. Chorus members were already struggling to maintain their livelihoods on only a 10-month contract and the further reduction down to a six-month contract may force many to leave the opera profession altogether.
Martyn Brabbins, ENO’s Music Director, resigned last night in protest at the cuts, which will impact Equity’s members in the chorus as well as others across the organisation.
ENO management has cited ongoing financial difficulties, including recovery from Covid and conditions attached to funding from Arts Council England (ACE), as reasons behind the extreme measures they are seeking to impose.
Equity’s members campaigned relentlessly alongside others following ACE’s announcement to remove ENO’s National Portfolio funding to secure future funding of the company, activity which ENO management acknowledged was pivotal in shifting ACE from their initial position. Equity’s members were campaigning for a future that would preserve their livelihoods and enable them to continue delivering large-scale opera to diverse audiences in London and beyond. Instead, these drastic proposals will be devastating for our members and ENO’s artistic output alike.
Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary, said: "The announcement of these plans is extremely worrying. We will reject these proposals and begin our negotiations with management on that basis. Given our recent campaigning work to deliver a positive outcome for the ENO and our members, we expect a period of negotiations held in good faith that will obtain a more positive outcome.
"When audiences and supporters celebrated further funding being made available to the ENO, they reasonably expected that this funding would preserve the company’s provision of affordable, accessible opera to new audiences in London and beyond by ENO’s highly specialised workforce. Cutting the ENO Chorus runs directly counter to this."
Ronald Nairne, Equity Deputy, ENO Chorus said: "The depth of these proposals has come as an almighty shock, and has caused deep upset and serious anxiety amongst the chorus for the security of our future. Whilst we understand the ENO is under pressure from limited funding, we expect them to deliver a model which keeps ENO employees at its heart - this is essential to protect both ENO's artistic work and our futures."