Industrial news

English National Opera chorus vote YES in ballot on strike action

Equity members in the ENO chorus vote to take industrial action starting on 1 February.

Equity members in the ENO chorus have voted ‘yes’ in a ballot on whether to take strike action.

  • The turnout among ENO chorus members was 94.11%
  • 100% voted ’yes’ to full strike action
  • 100% voted ‘yes’ to take action short of a strike

The ballot opened on Thursday 4 January and closed on Tuesday 16 January.

The chorus are joined by the ENO orchestra, who are represented by the Musicians Union and who have also voted yes to industrial action. The first day of strike action for both unions is planned for 1st February. This date coincides with the opening night of the ENO’s production of The Handmaid’s Tale.

We balloted Equity members in the ENO chorus after they rejected dramatic 40% cuts to their salaries and contracts as proposed by ENO management. Stage management, who are also represented by Equity, will be affected too.

Negotiations will continue, and we hope that industrial action can be averted through talks with ENO management and a dignified agreement that protects the pay, terms and conditions of chorus members.

The proposed cuts result from plans to reduce the ENO’s opera season in London following a reduction in Arts Council England funding. However, we believe these proposals are disproportionate, unsustainable for our members at the ENO and show disregard for the artistic workforce.

Sign our petition in support of the ENO chorus

“It gives me no pleasure to vote for strike action – I joined the ENO Chorus to sing, and to share opera with as many people as possible. Management’s proposals to fire and rehire me and my colleagues with a 40% salary cut and worsened working conditions will make remaining in the chorus unsustainable for many. I voted yes to taking strike action to force our management to reconsider their plans and come up with a different, more creative model that protects the workforce.”

ENO chorus member and Equity Deputy Ronald Nairne (workplace representative)

“The heart of this dispute is about who opera in this country is for: should there be stable, accessible jobs for people from every background, or precarious jobs limited to the few. The ENO chorus and creative workforce believe opera is for everyone, that opera is nothing without a stable dignified workforce and jobs which are open to all.

We campaigned relentlessly to get the ENO their improved funding deal. We support an ENO with two properly funded bases – and ENO management fought alongside us, saying they did too. Instead, they are throwing the artists who audiences pay to see under the bus whilst protecting the pay of senior management. They are proposing fire and re-hire, 40% cuts in wages, and no permanent jobs in a new Manchester base. After months of seeking a negotiated solution, our members have returned a strong vote in favour of taking strike action. To avoid this, management know what they must do – protect the workforce which makes the ENO great, and give audiences in Manchester and London the ENO they deserve and have been promised. ENO bosses: get back to the table.”

Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary

Our demands

We demand that the ENO chorus are guaranteed:

• No compulsory redundancies.
• Chorus to be given first refusal of any work in Manchester, on union negotiated terms and conditions.
• 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.

Show your support for a #FairWageOnStage

Join us in calling for a fair wage on stage for Equity members by signing our petition to the ENO’s Interim CEO, Jenny Mollica, and Chairman of the Board, Dr Harry Brünjes. Add your name and post to social media using the hashtag #FairWageOnStage.

Sign the petition

Fair Wage On Stage

Join our campaign demanding that the ENO drop their plans to cut chorus contracts to just six months of the year and slash pay by 40%.

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