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Negotiations underway for part-time orchestra at Scottish Opera

9 September 2010, [Originally posted on 31 August]

General director, Alex Reedijk
General director, Alex Reedijk

Scottish Opera may be planning to halve the working hours and salaries of its orchestra, a report in Glasgow’s The Herald revealed last week.

According to the report, “The management of the opera company, led by general director Alex Reedijk, believe the expense of a full-time orchestra cannot be sustained.”

The alleged proposal to put all 54 orchestra members on part-time contracts for 26 weeks’ work per year has been met with “anger, concern and dismay” by the musicians.

They have responded by writing an internal letter to the company’s board members stating that “We are the last remaining performing artists on full-time contracts, and if we were to continue in the direction that these proposals take us, Scottish Opera would no longer be a performing arts company at all, merely an administration, and indeed would no longer be a ‘national’ company worthy of the name.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Scottish Opera has told Opera Now that “we are currently in negotiations with the players representatives and the Musician's Union about new employment contracts and do not have anything further to add.”

The orchestra of Scottish Opera is due to celebrate its 30th birthday this year, having survived a previous financial restructuring of the company in 2004 that led to the loss of nearly 100 jobs, including all 34 members of the Opera’s chorus.

Union says proposals will damage the company "irretrievably"

The UK's Musicians' Union has declared that "the artistic integrity of [Scottish Opera] will be compromised and damaged irretrievably" if proposed cuts to the contracts and pay of the company's orchestra go ahead.

The Union's comments were published in an open letter sent to all 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament last week, including Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP.

Referring to recent media coverage about the proposed cuts, the Union's letter continued: "We understand that in today’s economic climate there are difficult decisions to be made about public spending...however, we believe that the company is one of Scotland’s most important cultural institutions and should be preserved for future generations.

“We believe that Scotland deserves a first-class opera company...using its public investment imaginatively and wisely to deliver excellent performances: small, medium and large, to the widest range of audiences.”

While Scotland's Culture Minister has so far not commented publicly on the debate, the Labour party's culture spokeswoman, Pauline McNeill MSP, said:

“I share the concerns that the Musicians’ Union have on the future of Scottish Opera. I urge Scottish Opera to consider all options and to discuss those with members in case there is a suitable alternative."

She added: "The reduction to working time for musicians is a drastic measure and those responsible, including the Scottish Government, must safeguard the integrity of our national company.”


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