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ENO plans to cut staff and put the rest on part-time contracts – union

ENO said it understands this is a ‘very challenging and stressful time’ for staff.

The English National Opera (ENO) has proposed cutting 19 musical staff positions and putting the remaining staff on part-time contracts, a union has said.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) said on Friday that it plans to reject the new proposals and keep members at the London Coliseum-based opera company on full pay.

A statement from ENO said it is “having to re-evaluate our employment levels” following a reduction in the funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and understands that this is a “very challenging and stressful time”.

ENO
ENO said it is ‘having to re-evaluate our employment levels’ (Ian West/PA)

MU national organiser for orchestras Jo Laverty said: “We urge the ENO to reconsider these proposals and call upon the Government and Arts Council England to take urgent action in support of the company.

“Our members in the orchestra of ENO do not deserve to be treated in this way, especially given the quality and breadth of their recent work.

“The union will fight hard to secure a brighter future for them.”

Last November it was announced that ENO had been pulled from the ACE’S grant portfolio and was being offered £17 million over three years, which was conditional on relocating outside London.

Arts Council England (ACE) said in July that it had adjusted funding plans to allow ENO until 2029 for a move out of London.

It was also confirmed that ENO will receive £24 million from ACE between 2024 and 2026 to deliver a “substantial opera season every year” in London, as well as establish a new main base outside the capital.

On Friday ENO said: “Whilst the ENO remains grateful for the Arts Council’s revised support and financial investment, and remains committed to creating opera for more people nationally, as for other artistic organisations this represents a reduction in income against a backdrop of inflation, rising fixed costs and a requirement to develop work across more locations.

“Sadly, this means that whilst we are no longer facing mass permanent redundancies, we are having to re-evaluate our employment levels across every part of the organisation.

“As we start this difficult process with staff, we believe we have presented viable options that aim to ensure a sustainable future for the ENO whilst supporting our artistic and musical heart as much as possible.

“We will do everything possible to support our employees throughout this very challenging and stressful time and continue our conversations with them and their representative unions in good faith.”

The Government had instructed ACE to redistribute funding across the country and, following a backlash, ACE announced in January it would be spending £11.46 million in 2023 to sustain a programme of work in London while helping ENO to start planning for a new base outside London by 2026.

ACE then extended the deadline for a main base outside London by three years, from March 2026 to March 2029.

It is expected that the location will be announced in December this year.

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