ROH staff picket audience

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The Independent Online

About 50 Royal Opera House staff last night picketed outside the troubled institution in Covent Garden, central London, minutes before the opening night of a new production.

Opera-goers were presented with this latest embarrassment to the ROH on the same night that a controversial BBC2 documentary, The House, was being broadcast.

Staff last night were protesting about the 110 redundancies announced last Friday by the out-going director, Jeremy Isaacs. They were told that voluntary redundancies would take effect from tomorrow and compulsory redundancies would be enforced next week.

Members of last night's audience for the first of six performances of Sir Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage were handed leaflets telling them of the redundancies, as well as seeing banners reading: "Turandole".

"I'm manager of staff here," said one picketing employee last night, "and already we will have to work even harder and even if we keep our jobs, we're going to have to do the job of lots of different people. We are not an elitist bunch. We're low-paid workers and we probably couldn't afford the tickets."

Christina Driver, national officer of Bectu, the union that represents about half of the ROH's 1,000 employees, said the protests were "spontaneous combustion ... We haven't had proper consultation."