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Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Vote Yes to Potential Industrial Action

The members of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House have voted overwhelmingly in favour of potential strike action in a ballot that closed 17 July.

Published: 18 July 2023 | 5:00 PM Updated: 20 July 2023 | 2:06 PM
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Naomi Pohl MU General Secretary thanked the members for their patience and resilience in recent months. Image credit: Shutterstock.

The result of the ballot was 89.87% in favour, based on a turnout of 92.94%.

As with most orchestras across the UK, the Royal Opera House (ROH) orchestra were asked to make a number of concessions during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep the company afloat whilst live performances were halted for public health reasons.

Whilst pay and conditions for other orchestras have since returned to pre-Covid levels, the 10% pay cut taken by players in the ROH orchestra remains in force. With the current cost of living crisis and inflation peaking at 13%, orchestra members are in real terms 23% worse off than they were three years ago. Coupled with this, they are seeing increasingly intense scheduling which impinges on their work-life balance.

Orchestra members would like to see a concrete commitment to returning their pay to pre-COVID levels over time

The musicians understand that there is pressure on the ROH management due to the funding cuts imposed by Arts Council England and the need to repay Coronavirus Business Loans to the Government. They realise that funds aren't immediately available to significantly increase the pay offer on the table now but, having played their part in helping the company through the pandemic, they would like to see a concrete commitment to returning their pay to pre-COVID levels over time. They have also raised the issue of work-life balance and impact on their family life as part of the negotiations.

The MU will continue talks with management

Naomi Pohl, MU General Secretary, thanked the members for their patience and resilience in recent months and said:

"This was a conclusive ballot result which shows the strength of feeling among our members at ROH. They are being reasonable in their requests. Far from demanding their pay be restored to pre-pandemic levels now, they are asking for a plan to get there over time.

“The ballot result gives us a six-month window in which to take action, so we will continue in talks with the management and hope to receive a better offer before any action is necessary."

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