English National Opera Averts Strike Through Voluntary Buyouts

Classic Arts News   English National Opera Averts Strike Through Voluntary Buyouts
Up to 45 staff member at English National Opera are thought to have accepted voluntary redundancy, lessening the possibility that the company will face a strike, reports the U.K. periodical The Stage.

ENO chief executive Loretta Tomasi announced in February that 10% of the company's workforce (including musicians) would need to be cut to render the company (as she said at the time) "artistically and financially viable in the long term." Within a fortnight, technical staff threatened strike action.

Negotiations over contracts with Equity, BECTU and the Musicians' Union are reportedly ongoing, but, according to The Stage, ENO should now be able to avoid involuntary layoffs.

An unnamed inside source told the paper, "We would have gone on strike against any compulsory redundancies, so they had to agree to enhanced redundancy terms [i.e., severance payments] to attract enough people to apply for redundancy. Some people have got what might on the surface look like a significant amount, but nothing compares to the loss of employment."

The future doesn't look calm for the company, however: The Stage says there will likely be unrest over ENO's attempts to gain more flexibility in scheduling work hours and increase the number of Sundays staff are expected to work. (The article is unclear as to whether equivalent time off during the regular work week is being offered.)

ENO is also proposing that artists should not be paid additional fees if their work is shown on television or on the Internet, which is also likely to be controversial with staff. The American Federation of Musicians negotiated a blanket agreement on this topic last year that allows for payments as a percentage of income earned on the re-use of performances on disc, broadcast or the Internet, rather than upfront payments.

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