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English National Opera musicians and chorus suspend strike

English National Opera's production of The Handmaid's Tale at London Coliseum on 6 April 2022
The strike was due to take place on the first night of the new run of The Handmaid's Tale

Musicians at the English National Opera (ENO) have called off a strike over pay and conditions, the performing arts union Equity has said.

Members of the chorus and orchestra had been due to walk out on 1 February, the opening night of its latest run of The Handmaid's Tale, over planned job cuts.

Equity has now reached an interim settlement for the chorus.

The Musicians' Union has suspended strike action, and talks with the ENO will now continue.

It would have been the first time that Musicians Union members had taken full strike action for 44 years.

'Full resolution'

Equity said in a statement: "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."

It added that the Musicians' Union mandate to strike "remains live until such time a full settlement is reached".

The Musicians' Union will continue taking action short of a strike while negotiations are ongoing.

The ballots were conducted earlier this month after ENO management announced plans to make all of the chorus, orchestra and music staff redundant and re-employ them for six months of the year.

For some musicians in the orchestra, the proposal was to reduce their contracts even further with some being offered ad-hoc freelance work only.

Last year, the ENO's music director Martyn Brabbins resigned following the announcement of the cuts.

The proposals were made after the ENO was removed from Arts Council England's annual funding portfolio, losing its £12.8m grant, and told it must move outside London in order to qualify for future grants.

In December it announced plans to move to Manchester, but the relocation has been met by opposition from the company and many in the cultural world.

The ENO has been given extra time and money to facilitate the move, but there is still uncertainty over how it will function.