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English National Opera musicians and singers go on strike

English National Opera musicians and singers go on strike

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, The strike will take place on the first night of the new run of The Handmaid's Tale

English National Opera musicians and singers have voted to strike in protest against a plan to cut jobs.

Members of the company's orchestra, chorus and musical staff will exit on February 1, the opening night of the newest production of The Handmaid's Tale.

The Musicians Union and Equity said plans to cut 19 jobs in the orchestra and hire more part-time staff would threaten musicians' livelihoods.

The National Oil Organization said the dispute “could be better resolved around the negotiating table.”

This will be the first time members of the Musicians Union have gone on a full strike in 44 years.

The union's general secretary, Naomi Ball, said the vote was “a sign of very difficult times for the orchestra sector, opera and ballet in particular.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, The dispute stems from funding and transport cuts imposed by Arts Council England

Paul Fleming, general secretary of arts union Equity, said: “At the heart of this dispute is who opera is in this country: should there be stable and accessible jobs for people of all backgrounds, or precarious jobs restricted to the few.”

ENO said it remains “committed to continuing our conversations with unions in good faith as we work towards a sustainable future, in the context of the funding agreement reached with Arts Council England in July 2023”.

The ballot was held after ENO management announced plans to make all choir, orchestra and music members redundant and rehire them for six months of the year.

For some musicians in the orchestra, the proposal is to reduce their contracts further while offering only freelance work to some.

Last year, ENO's music director, Martyn Brabbins, resigned after the cuts were announced.

The proposals were submitted after ENO was removed from Arts Council England's annual funding portfolio, lost its £12.8 million grant, and was told it must move outside London in order to qualify for future grants.

In December, it announced plans to move to Manchester, but the move was met with opposition from the company and many in the culture world.

ENO has been given more time and money to facilitate the move, but there is still uncertainty about how it will work.

Among MU members in ENO, there was a 92% voter turnout, and 93% voted in favor of a full strike.

The Equity organization said that the participation rate among Eno Choir members reached 94%, and all of them voted in favor of a complete strike.