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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Confusion over opera chorus jobs
Scottish Opera chorus members
Chorus members have been protesting over their future
A war of words has broken out over the future of the 34-strong chorus of Scottish Opera.

The chorus claim they were told they would all be losing their jobs just before they began a performance on Thursday night.

It follows the announcement of a one-year restructuring plan, aimed at cutting 88 jobs at the opera company.

However, a Scottish Opera spokesperson said "the chorus of Scottish Opera was not sacked yesterday evening".

Instead, the chorus were informed of a 60-day consultation in which they could lose their jobs.

Tuesday meeting

Scottish Opera said it had informed the performers' union Equity that the jobs were at risk as early as Tuesday.

The spokesman said: "Representatives of the company met Lorne Boswell, the Equity representative, on Tuesday, 15 June.

"Prior to that meeting he had received a copy of certain details of the company's proposals in writing, including the proposal that the 34 full time chorus posts were at risk of redundancy."

But Mr Boswell insisted the chorus were not formally notified that they could all be made redundant until 10 minutes before a performance of La Boheme in Edinburgh.

We obviously regret the announcement of redundancies in the chorus of Scottish Opera
Scottish Arts Council spokesperson
He said: "At 7:05 last night, bearing in mind that the curtain was due to go up at 7:15, the chorus were called together and they were told face-to-face for the first time by their line manager that the company proposed to make their posts redundant.

"They were then asked to go on and perform La Boheme at the Festival Theatre."

The process of Scottish Opera's restructuring is planned to be completed by June 2005, to be followed by nine months with no full-scale productions.

The financial rescue package, including the need to cut jobs, was outlined in a joint statement from the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Opera last week.

A spokesperson from the Scottish Arts Council said: "We obviously regret the announcement of redundancies in the chorus of Scottish Opera and realise that this is a very distressing and stressful time for those involved.

'Cultural vandalism'

"Implementations of redundancy plans are subject to detailed legal process and it is not our policy to comment on how individual organisations implement these."

Scottish National Party culture spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham described the treatment of the chorus as "absolutely appalling".

She said: "Ministers must admit what they knew about decisions that have been taken by Scottish Opera because no employee, regardless of where they work, should ever be treated in this fashion."

And Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan said: "The sacking of the Scottish Opera chorus is nothing less than an act of wanton cultural vandalism."

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