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Fight to save ENO chorus ‘difficult but vital’ – Equity

Equity president Malcolm Sinclair has called on councils to increase their arts spending despite projected budget cuts. Photo: Phil Adams

Equity president Malcolm Sinclair has warned of a “difficult fight” to safeguard the jobs of chorus members working at English National Opera.

His warning comes as Equity prepares to reveal the result of a ballot that could result in chorus members working at the venue going on strike. The result will be revealed on February 27 outside the offices of Arts Council England in London.

Chorus members are protesting [1] against plans to reduce their salary by 25% and make four of the chorus redundant.

Sinclair, talking to The Stage at the WhatsOnStage Awards [2], said the creative side of the sector was “completely united” in questioning the strategy of ENO’s management.

“Quite apart from the injustice done to the members of the chorus, who have put in years of service, it’s the fact that it’s the wrong decision,” he said, adding: “I’ve seen no argument that we have to have a part-time opera company and if it’s a proper opera company you have to have a proper chorus and a proper orchestra.”

He described the chorus as “vital” and said Equity members who had been leafleting outside the Coliseum in London had won the support of audiences.

“The patrons know how marvellous the chorus is because they pay their money to go and listen to them,” he said.

Sinclair added: “It’s going to be a difficult fight because in order to safeguard these jobs and the company someone is going to have to back down, and in all these situations it becomes extremely tricky. We want to manage it properly and help ENO and the management there at the moment, most of whom are not responsible for the position the company finds itself in, to find a solution everyone is happy with. We certainly don’t want to have a massive bust-up as that will serve nobody.”

Last week, performers from the Royal Opera gave their backing to ENO’s chorus members [3].

Equity and BECTU are also planning a meeting on March 3 [4] to discuss a joint campaign against the proposals.

ENO has stressed that the company remains committed to a “permanent chorus, orchestra and backstage team”.