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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 00:14 GMT


Royal Opera House staff spared the axe

The Royal Opera House: Threat of mass redundancies has receded

The threat of mass redundancies at the Royal Opera House (ROH) has eased after four hours of negotiations between management and the unions.

Rosie Millard reports on the negotiations at the Royal Opera House
ROH chairman Sir Colin Southgate said "substantial progress" had been made on new working contracts.

He said the actors' union Equity, who are representing dancers, singers and technical staff, had shown more flexibility.

'Much improved proposals'

Equity, for its part, said management had made concessions on overtime and pay. Equity spokesman Ian McGarry said: "They listened to the press and our members and they came back with much improved proposals."

Negotiations are to continue on Thursday but it looks as if this latest crisis at the Royal Opera House is all but over.

[ image: Sir Colin Southgate: Delighted by unions' flexibility]
Sir Colin Southgate: Delighted by unions' flexibility
Sir Colin said on Wednesday: "Although there are some minor matters still to be resolved between the various parties, we have now reached agreement on enough matters of substance for us to be confident that comprehensive agreements with the main staff representatives are imminent."

He said: "I am very pleased to be able to say that the possibility of the closure of the Royal Opera House has receded considerably."

'Minimal compulsory job losses'

Sir Colin said the agreement would result in "minimal compulsory redundancies" but most job losses would be voluntary redundancies or the non-replacement of vacancies.

The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera faced complete shutdown between January and the end of 1999 if no agreement was reached.

Sir Colin said last month indefinite closure and redundancies would follow if unions could not agree new working contracts by 26 October.

The actors' union Equity protested against the arbitrary deadline, describing it "like negotiating with a gun held against our heads".

Bectu and the Musicians' Union are also negotiating on behalf of about 80 corps de ballet, 36 full-time opera chorus, the 104-strong orchestra, backstage and front-of-house staff.

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