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ENO warned of ‘simmering unrest’ among staff

ENO's home at the London Coliseum. ENO's home at the London Coliseum. Photo: Andreas Praefcke
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Entertainment union BECTU has warned of a “simmering unrest” within English National Opera that can only be addressed by “real improvements to working conditions”.

The warning comes as BECTU members voted by a narrow margin – 51% in favour to 49% against – to accept a pay offer for 2018 to 2019.

As well as a pay increase, the agreement with ENO has addressed “concerns from stage departments about the number of 60-hour weeks being worked”, with hours now to be capped at 220 per four-week period.

English National Opera staff to vote on capped hours and increased pay offer

The agreement follows extensive negotiations between ENO and BECTU over a troubled period for the opera company, which was previously placed in special measures by the Arts Council due to financial concerns.

From April 1, all BECTU staff on permanent, seasonal and fixed term contracts, excluding those covered by the increases to the London Living Wage, will receive a £375 increase in their base salary.

Workers will also receive a one-off payment of £250 in July, and another £375 increase to their base salary from April 1, 2019.

All other casual workers will see a 1% increase in salary in April 2018 and April 2019.

Helen Ryan, assistant national secretary at BECTU, said: “I have advised management that members have voted to accept the offer.

“I have also flagged to the management to appreciate that the narrow vote to accept the pay offer demonstrates the unrest among the membership and that real changes and improvements to working conditions in some departments must be achieved.”

A spokeswoman from ENO said the organisation was pleased to have reached an agreement with BECTU.

She said: “We recognise the importance of ensuring positive working conditions for all ENO employees. We are currently conducting an all-staff survey regarding our company culture and working conditions that will help us to prioritise areas for improvement and ensure that our colleagues feel positive about working at ENO as well as valued by the company.”

BECTU is also continuing with a wider review of contractual terms and conditions at ENO, with the aim of ensuring employment contacts are “fit for purpose for the coming years”. The union plans to conclude the review in autumn.

Earlier this month, Stuart Murphy was named new chief executive of ENO, replacing Cressida Pollock.

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