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(Image courtesy: Equity)

English National Opera and Orchestra Suspends Strike Action

Planned strikes from February 1, 2024, have been suspended following an interim settlement


Earlier this January, the musicians and staff of the English National Opera (ENO) voted for full strike action beginning on February 1, 2024, in response to substantial cuts proposed by Arts Council England (ACE).

The proposal would have removed 19 full-time positions in the ENO orchestra, and placed the remaining full-time musicians on short-term contracts. At the time, ENO’s then-music director Martyn Brabbins resigned to protest the cuts.

In December 2023, ACE also requested that the company move its home base from London to Manchester, further saying it would withdraw ENO’s £12m per annum funding grant if the move was not made.

Now, ENO’s planned strike has been suspended as the Equity Trade Union announced an interim settlement with the company, according to The Guardian.

“We are pleased to announce that [we have] reached an interim settlement with the English National Opera for the chorus,” Equity wrote on its website. “Although this does not mark the absolute end of negotiations, we are confident that constructive talks can lead to a full resolution in the coming weeks.”

“Consequently, industrial action on The Handmaid’s Tale on the 1st February is suspended,” the statement added. “This suspension also allows time for the ENO to complete its negotiations with the Musicians’ Union, who are also suspending their action, and to confirm the final details of both offers. Our mandate for industrial action remains live until such time a full settlement is reached.”

However, in an update by the ENO, it is confirmed that alongside “constructive conversations with both Equity and Musicians’ Union,” the opening night of The Handmaid’s Tale on February 1 is still going ahead as planned.

According to the MU, ENO’s musicians and music staff are calling on management to provide a guarantee to a minimum seven-month contract; first refusal on work outside London; equal choices on new contracts; equal total hours available to all; and fair pay.

“We have reached an interim settlement with Equity that we hope to confirm following the completion of our ongoing negotiations with the Musicians’ Union,” the ENO wrote. “We will now commence a period of mediation with the Musicians’ Union as we seek to reach a similar agreement, and to finalize the details of both offers.”

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