ENO to cut senior pay by 20%
English National Opera is to reduce pay levels for senior management by 20% as it seeks to make savings of £5 million.
The Stage also understands that chief executive Cressida Pollock accepted a 30% reduction to the role’s salary when her position became permanent in September last year.
A spokesman for ENO said he could not comment on individual pay levels, but told The Stage that a target had been set internally to cut the overall pay of ENO’s 11 senior managers by 20%. No timeline has been set for this, but the spokesman said the target was part of its business plan that is aimed at saving £5 million. This £5 million is to cover a reduction in ENO’s funding from Arts Council England.
The spokesman confirmed that the 20% would be partly achieved by not replacing director of communications Thomas Coops, who is leaving. His role will now be merged with the post of director of marketing and audience engagement.
The spokesman added that other savings would be achieved by bringing in new staff on lower salaries than their respective posts previously received. Senior manager roles include director of marketing, technical director and music director, a post held by Mark Wigglesworth.
The spokesman also pointed out there was currently a two-year pay freeze at the organisation, affecting all staff.
News of the reduced pay levels comes as chorus members at ENO announced they would strike for the first time in 13 years in response to proposed changes to their contracts.
ENO proposed that the 44-strong ensemble would be permanent only between September and May, reducing members’ contracted time by 25%, which would be reflected in a pay cut. ENO bosses confirmed that this action would come into force in August 2017. Four members of the chorus will also be made redundant from August this year as part of the plans.
In a ballot by Equity over the issue, 42 papers were returned, all of which voted in favour both of striking and of protest action short of a strike.
At an event outside ACE’s offices in central London, Equity’s head of live performance Hilary Hadley announced that the chorus would undertake industrial action next month, from March 4 to 19. This will include protests, and singers may not agree to work overtime.
Chorus members will also strike on March 18, and will not sing during Act I of Philip Glass’ three-act piece Akhnaten, in what they say is a reflection of the cuts to the chorus proposed by ENO management.
Hadley described the action as a “symbol of our [Equity’s] seriousness and a sign of the desperation of the chorus”.
ENO’s chorus last went on strike in 2003. Industrial action was avoided at the company in 2007, after around 45 members of staff took voluntary redundancy.
One chorus member, who asked not to be named, told The Stage he felt the importance of a full-time, permanent chorus was being ignored by ENO management.
“This [the pay cut] would have a huge impact. Really it would not be a permanent job anymore because people will only come for a couple of years and that will have an impact on the artistic output of the chorus. The homogenous sound that you build up over years will be lost,” he said.
In response to the announcement of strike action, a statement from ENO management said: “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.”
ENO added that it was “confident” that it could reach an agreement with Equity and that the two organisations could work together to find a solution.
Members from Equity, backstage union BECTU and the Musicians’ Union are due to meet on March 3 to discuss proposals from ENO.
Pollock has since updated ENO’s position with regards to its savings plan.
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