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Unions plan crisis talks ‘for the survival of ENO’

The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera. Photo: Mike Peel The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera. Photo: Mike Peel
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Trade bodies BECTU, Equity and the Musicians’ Union are planning a joint crisis meeting to save English National Opera from becoming a “part-time company”.

It comes as BECTU warns of “hostile action” from its members should ENO make any of them redundant, or introduce changes to their terms and conditions.

The union has also called on ENO’s management to leave if they are not prepared to “stand with their staff”.

The meeting between the three bodies and their members is expected to take place on March 3, with a joint campaign planned as a result.

It comes after it emerged that ENO was proposing to reduce the number of productions it stages at the London venue, and reduce the hours of its chorus members, in an effort to make savings.

An Equity spokesman said: “The purpose of the meeting is so that all workers at the Coliseum can campaign together for the survival of ENO as a full-time, world-class opera company.”

Backstage union BECTU said it had already had a series of face-to-face meetings with Gary Smith, a consultant hired by ENO to conduct redundancy talks with the three unions.

“BECTU believes ENO should be retained as a full-time opera company and we will be opposing the board and the management’s plan to turn ENO into a part-time company,” the union said.

BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey added: “BECTU is committed to retaining ENO as a full-time opera company, and we believe that this is possible with the current grants they receive.”

He called on the current management to “buy into this plan, rather than taking the defeatist route of becoming a part-time company, which ultimately can only result in failure”.

“We challenge the current management and board to stand with its staff and the unions and fight for the future of the company, but if they are not prepared to do so they should leave,” Morrissey said.

Last week, chorus members working for ENO threatened strike action, claiming the company was planning to reduce their pay to 75% of current rates.

ENO has since moved to clarify its position on chorus members. It said it had proposed “a reduction in chorus salary of 25%, which reflects the reduction in work on the main stage at the Coliseum”.

The chorus would remain a permanent ENO ensemble between the months of September and May, which is reflected in their proposed salary. On top of this, they would be offered first refusal for all work carried out by ENO during the summer months, and would be paid extra performance fees accordingly,” Eno said in a staff briefing.

BECTU has also refused to rule out industrial action and said it had written to every member of ENO’s board to point out that there has not been a strike from its own members in 28 years, claiming it has always managed to resolve differences “amicably”.

It said it had told ENO staff there would be no “hostile action” taken unless the company takes “hostile action towards our members”.

“By ‘hostile action’ we are referring to ENO making any BECTU members compulsorily redundant or imposing changes to any BECTU member’s terms and conditions of employment,” it said.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for ENO to be saved.

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