Opera bosses hit sour note as strike looms

English National Opera choristers involved in a dispute over pay and jobs, as they have voted to go on strike.
English National Opera choristers involved in a dispute over pay and jobs, as they have voted to go on strike.
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Choristers at the English National Opera are threatening to disrupt a performance after voting to go on strike in a dispute over pay and jobs.

The 42 members of the world-renowned choir all backed walkouts and other forms of industrial action in a 100 per cent turnout.

Their union, Equity, announced that action short of a strike will start a week today, while the choir will refuse to sing in the first act of a performance of Akhnaten in London on March 18.

The action is in protest at plans to cut pay by 25 per cent and axe four jobs.

The choir handed in a letter outlining its case to the head office of the Arts Council of England and sang a song from the Mikado on the steps of the building in London.

The ENO said it was saddened that the action was “specifically designed” to cause the “utmost harm” to the company and its audience.

Martin Brown, of Equity, said the vote showed the strength of feeling among the choristers.

“The opera world is appalled that this world-class choir is facing such pay cuts,” he said.

“We have had fantastic support from the arts world and audiences.”

Actor Martin Sinclair, Equity’s president, said the cuts would damage the artistic integrity of the choir, adding: “The entire theatre community is behind this dispute.

“This is an elite group which deserves special protection. If the dispute goes on, actors and directors will be out in force showing their support.”

As well as the pay cuts and job losses, managers were also planning to increase hours, remove payment for Sunday working and stop overtime pay, said the union.

An ENO statement said: “Their choice to disrupt performances of Akhnaten will only undermine the pride the whole company has in its amazing work and let down every audience member who has paid to see this show.”