The chorus was let go as part of the company's bailout deal with the Scottish Executive, which rescued the company (not for the first time) from bankruptcy in June 2004 with a Ô£7.5 million package. The deal, which resulted in 88 layoffs, also stipulated that the company go dark (except for small-scale regional touring) for the 2005-06 season.
The union Equity told the magazine that 20 choristers who did not accept voluntary severance as part of the company's restructuring were told they would get right of first refusal for jobs in Scottish Opera's upcoming productions of Don Giovanni, Carmen and Der Rosenkavalier.
However, the union claims that, despite successful auditions, the singers were not offered work and outsiders received the jobs. Scottish Equity secretary Lorne Boswell told The Stage, "The company offered first refusal all this year, then completely ignored it. The chorus master was clearly under instruction not to use the full-timers. Only after other people turned down parts did we manage to get a number of them back in. It's quite clear what they're doing is clearing people out and trying to de-unionise the company."
However, a Scottish Opera spokesperson responded that all the former chorus members had been given first refusal for jobs but two had failed the audition. She also said that the company has not been served with any formal notice of legal action.
Unfortunately, this is not the first labor trouble Scottish Opera has faced since gearing back up for full-scale operations. Earlier this year, BECTU (the union representing backstage staff) claimed that consultants employed by the company attempted to bully workers into signing individual contracts rather than a union contract. According to The Stage, strikes were only narrowly avoided.