Musicians' Union Members Reach Agreement with English National Opera

All current orchestra members will be offered the seven months of guaranteed work.

By: Feb. 20, 2024
Musicians' Union Members Reach Agreement with English National Opera
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The Musicians' Union (MU) has reached an agreement with English National Opera (ENO). As a result, all planned strike and action short of strike by MU members in the orchestra at ENO have been cancelled.

MU members in the orchestra voted for a package including seven months of guaranteed work, a minimum redundancy payment and important improvements to the proposed contract.

All current orchestra members will be offered the seven months of guaranteed work. 

The musicians state that they voted for the package because they want to see the company and orchestra contribute to make as much opera as possible.

MU members - who will be made redundant and then rehired as part of the process - also believe that they should be on full time contracts and ENO should be performing opera with its artistic forces year-round.

MU members in the music staff have agreed to an offer in principle and are in the process of confirming details with ENO management.

Musicians’ Union General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with ENO for the orchestra, albeit a deal that our members have accepted with heavy hearts.

“It was clear that the current Arts Council England funding package and instruction to move out of London by 2029 did not provide for full-time jobs for ENO's performers at the present time.

“This is a tragedy and we are worried about how our members will make ends meet over the next couple of transition years for the company. Our deal has focused on the best package achievable to try to keep the orchestra together.”

In addition to supporting orchestra members affected by arts funding cuts, the MU is calling on the UK government to:

  • Provide specific funding for touring to cover increasing costs
  • Make the orchestral and theatre tax relief extensions permanent
  • Write off or delay repayment of Covid recovery loans
  • Reverse Nadine Dorries’ instruction to Arts Council England that led to English National Opera being asked to relocate

MU National Organiser for Orchestras Jo Laverty said: “Our members remain deeply disappointed that they have lost so much work and income when many of the other ENO staff have stayed full time.

“It is our intention to work on building up our members work with ENO so they can return to full contracts. An ideal long-term situation would see ENO making opera full time in both London and Manchester.”

MU Regional Organiser for London Jamie Pullman said: “It was important to the orchestra from day one of this crisis that they wanted to be treated as a whole ensemble and any deal should be available to all ENO orchestra members. They didn't want to see any colleague left behind.

“We are pleased that the final agreement achieved this and we hope it will enable as many musicians as possible to stay with ENO through this transition period and beyond. We hope ENO has a bright future and our members should be at the heart of that.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Stewart for Musicians' Union