Singers' strike ends on high note with ENO deal

Louise Jury,Arts Correspondent
Friday 21 March 2003 01:00

English National Opera backed down over plans to sack 20 members of its chorus yesterday, ending a bitter industrial dispute that led to performances being cancelled.

Instead of cutting 20 singers, the troubled company reached a deal with Equity to reduce the 60-strong chorus to 50, without any compulsory redundancies. In return the singers have agreed to greater flexibility in their contracts which will, for the first time, permit big screen relays of live performances and up to four live television broadcasts over the next three years.

Choristers taking voluntary redundancy will have first call on employment as extra choristers for performances requiring a larger choir.

Ian McGarry, general secretary of Equity, paid tribute to the chorus for its determination in reaching a settlement. "I am greatly relieved that the uncertainties facing the chorus have now been resolved," he said. Martin Smith, chairman of the ENO board, said the deal was a "very positive step forward".

The compromise means the British premiere of Poul Ruders's The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, will go ahead as planned on 3 April.

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