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ENO strike action suspended as talks continue

English National Opera chorus members singing outside the offices of Arts Council England. Photo: Marcus Clarkson English National Opera chorus members singing outside the offices of Arts Council England. Photo: Marcus Clarkson
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Strike action planned by chorus members at English National Opera has been suspended.

The chorus members had been due to strike on March 18 in a dispute over changes to their contracts that could reduce the number of months they work in a year.

They previously voted not to perform in one act of Akhnaten by Philip Glass.

However, union Equity has confirmed that the strike action has been suspended while talks continue.

A spokesman for the union said he was “optimistic” that a resolution could be reached.

Last week, ENO warned it faced bankruptcy if it did not implement changes to its operation.

It was responding to a joint letter sent by Equity, the Musicians’ Union and BECTU to board members at ENO, warning that proposals to move the chorus and other staff members to seasonal contracts would “seriously hamper” the operation of the company.

“We believe that you will lose the individuals necessary to make opera production a success, and the flexibility for a new artistic director to produce either more operas at the Coliseum or alternative artistic programmes in the summer,” the letter stated.

It added that proposals to move staff to seasonal contracts had been made while the company was without an artistic director, which it described as “particularly worrying”.

However, ENO responded by stating that the plans put forward to BECTU, Equity and the MU were “essential to ensure the future of ENO”.

“Without a fundamental shift in our business plan, and a move towards seasonal contracts for some employees, we put the future of the company at grave risk of bankruptcy,” an ENO spokesman warned.

The organisation confirmed that strike action planned for March 18 would not take place.

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