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Welsh National Opera musicians to vote on industrial action in dispute over pay

21 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Musicians’ Union members in the Welsh National Opera (WNO) orchestra demonstrate at the Wales Millennium Centre. Image: Alistair Heap/PA Media Assignments

Members of the Welsh National Opera are being balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Those in the Musicians’ Union (MU) will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of action, saying there are plans to make the orchestra part-time and cut musicians’ pay by 15%.


The union said funding cuts by the Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England have forced Welsh National Opera management to consider the changes.

Touring will also have to be reduced as a result of the funding shortfall for the company, which risks leaving towns and cities like Llandudno and Bristol without the high-quality opera provision they deserve, said the union.

Critical time

Union general secretary Naomi Pohl said: “This is a critical time for WelshNational Opera as it faces funding cuts from Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales.

“We are also deeply concerned about diminishing opera provision across the UK. This will hit hardest in areas that already have less arts and music provision, and hugely reduce opportunities for musicians to earn a living.”

Hanna Hipp as Federico García Lorca and ensemble. Credit Johan Persson

She added: “We are determined to support our members in challenging plans for unsustainable pay cuts for our members and changes that could cause major damage to arts and music in Wales.

“Meanwhile we will be taking the issue up with the Government, supportive MPs and the arts councils.

“With a General Election on the horizon, it is a pivotal moment in time to make our case for the cultural investment so desperately needed for our arts institutions.”


Ruth Ballantyne, MU Acting Regional Organiser for Wales and South West England, said: “These proposed cuts would be hugely damaging for our members and professional music in Wales and South West England. The proposed removal of stable and secure jobs, and the inevitable reduction in the amount of work for freelance musicians, is unacceptable.

“The WNO Orchestra is one of only two full time professional orchestras in Wales. Reducing that provision would have a negative effect on the WNO’s artistic standards, Cardiff’s status as a hub for professional music, and cultural provision across Wales and large parts of England.

“Music and the arts are already facing major challenges across Wales and damaging the artistic foundation of Wales’ largest arts organisation would be another major blow to musicians and audiences. Wales has strong and deeply felt musical heritage and I’m sure that everyone will be concerned about one of our national companies being potentially downgraded in this way.”

“Hugely damaging”

Jo Laverty, MU National Organiser for Orchestras, said: “If the orchestra is forced to go part-time this will be hugely damaging to WNO’s orchestra members and their loyal pool of freelancers and will have a wider knock-on effect on the industry.

“If proposed cuts go ahead, there will only be two full-time employed opera orchestras (Opera North and the Orchestra of the Royal Ballet and Opera) left in the whole of the UK; with the stability and benefits of year-round employment and year-round opportunities for engagement of freelancers.

“It diminishes opportunities in the profession, it diminishes opportunities for skilled orchestral musicians in Wales, and the future of the profession for Wales’s aspiring young musicians.”

The Union is calling on the public to help protect orchestra jobs at the Welsh National Opera by signing its petition:

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