Just in: ENO chorus votes 100% to strike

Chorus members at English National Opera have followed their union’s recommendation and voted unanimously to strike over proposals – still unfinalised – to cut their contract months and their numbers.

They are presently gathering to picket the Arts Council, the real instigator of the cuts.

eno arts council picket

ENO have issued the following response:

‘We are extremely disappointed that Equity have balloted members of the ENO chorus, and they have decided to proceed with industrial action – including a strike – before undertaking serious negotiations. Given the assurance that no action would be taken which would damage the company, we are saddened that the action that they have chosen seems specifically designed to cause the utmost harm to both the company and our audience.

‘Their choice to disrupt performances of Akhnaten will only undermine the pride the whole company has in its amazing work and let down every audience member who has paid to see this show.

‘We are confident that we can reach an agreement with Equity and that we can work together to find a solution which both enables us to face the reality of a £5m cut in core funding whilst protecting the artistic integrity of our work.

‘To be clear, we are not asking the chorus to work the same number of months for 75% of pay, as has been suggested by Equity. We are asking the chorus to move to a nine month contract, reflecting the work they will undertake in future seasons for the company. We are reducing their contracted time with the company by 25%, and have put forward a 17.5% reduction in pay (equivalent to 10 months pay – nine months plus four weeks paid holiday to be taken outside of their contracted ‘core’ season).

‘We have made concessions to the original proposal which would see this new contract not take effect until 1 August 2017, thereby giving 18 months notice. We have proposed four redundancies in the chorus, reducing the chorus from 44 members to 40. This would take effect from 1 August 2016.

‘We have made it clear to the chorus that we would prefer to protect jobs and maintain a permanent ensemble, and therefore offer contracts that reflect the amount of work that individual chorus members undertake, rather than imposing further redundancies on the chorus, thus compromising the artistic quality for which they are world renowned. By taking this action, we are able to limit the number of redundancies to four.

‘However, in order to face the financial reality of the situation we are in, and to offer the greatest value for public money, we are not prepared to pay chorus members for times of the year that they are not working.

‘We are also offering to give first refusal to chorus members on any work that is scheduled outside their contracts at a 100% freelance fee and are prepared to negotiate a notice period for finding this work that suits the needs of individual chorus members. Plans to find work for the chorus during the summer months are already at an advanced stage, which will further soften the financial impact of these cost savings to individual chorus members.

‘We cannot place the future of ENO, one of the UK’s greatest cultural assets, at risk of closure. Any strike action undertaken would significantly undermine the work of all members of the ENO family. We are committed to finding a solution with Equity and chorus representatives that both protects our permanent artistic forces yet meets the cost savings required given the 30% cut to our core ACE grant.’

eno chorus strike


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    • Maybe you could plan to do something else instead? There may well be a whole host of other interesting cultural activities going on that you could take advantage of and enjoy during a brief stay in London. This may help ensure that your visit can be a happy one after all.

  • I have tickets too Graeme, but it is Arts Council England and the ENO management that have brought this strike on, not the chorus. The threat to their livelihood, and also to the integrity of the company have left them no option. I wish the chorus success.

    • The Time has already written “Philip Glass’s three-hour drama on the life of Akhnaten is an endurance test — so ENO is spicing it up with male nudity and a juggling chorus ”

      So you’ll be getting the nudity but no juggling !

    • I’m not absolving management of blame. But strikes have the effect of pushing those who like me are sympathetic to the cause into the opposite camp. Part of me has always thought that the money spent on ENO would be better spent outside of London – now I just think that even more. I spent much of my youth at ENO in the 1980s so it’s shame, but even if the chorus win this battle they have lost my respect and I doubt if I will ever bother going to ENO again.

      I guess my tickets will be refunded – but not the hotel and travel costs.

      • So if someone casually mentions to you that your income is to be cut by 25%, you’ll just smile and say ‘okey!’ ??

        • I don’t leap to go on strike as a first kneejerk response. More to the point, if you p@#$ off the people who buy tickets so that they don’t come back in the future, then even if you win the war in the short-term you shoot yourself in the foot in the longer term.

          Scrap ENO and spend the money in the rest of the country is a very tempting response.

          • To be fair, this is not a first knee-jerk response. Committees representing those affected have been involved in extensive negotiations with management for weeks, and the management have yet to show real interest in viable alternatives to their proposal.

            The press statement simultaneously claims serious negotiation hasn’t taken place – and later says ‘concessions have been made’, stating that everyone has been at the table.

            You don’t get 100% support for a kneejerk strike, certainly not from the ENO Chorus, who love their work and their audience: you get it when it’s the only way people feel their voices will be heard.

        • Certainly, if that 25% represented time when they’re not actually working, and are therefore basically stealing from the organisation.

          This lot are lazy as well as selfish and – given that this will destroy their company for good and all – stupid.

          • This lot are lazy? Rubbish. Like any chorus, they are worked far too hard, with schedules that any normal worker would balk at (wig fitting at 9:30am this end of town, then a rehearsal at 14:00 on the other side of town (no time to go home in between), then back to the coliseum for a performance until 22:00. And this six days a week.

            They deserve what mediocre financial recompense they get, and most of all, they deserve the security.

          • “Stealing from the organisation”.

            You prize chump.

            The ENO chorus aren’t allowed to take paid holiday during the season (except for cases of family calamity etc). They have to take their annual holiday allowance as part of the summer break.

            But I suppose you and your kind believe they are “stealing” the rest of the time?

          • Being sacked is being paid 100% less to work 100% less but by your argument that’s perfectly reasonable too.

  • ==I hope the management are offering to make similar cuts to their own salaries and working hours?

    What about the orchestra ? They seem to be exempt.

  • According to Stage magazine:
    “The ensemble will not perform during Act I of the four-act opera, in what they say is a reflection of the 25% cut proposed by ENO management.”

  • The question I ask is that “Is there a need for ENO”. The whole point of Sadlers Wells Opera (which was it’s trade name when Lillian Baylis founded it) was that having operas sung in English meant that the audience understood what was going on. Now we have to put up with ghastly surtitles, surely this negates the need for a company that does everything in the vernacular.

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