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Orchestra players reveal job loss fears

Scottish Opera’s orchestra voted in favour of going part-time because many players feared redundancy if they voted against the move, it emerged yesterday.

Scottish Opera’s management told the Musicians’ Union (MU) that putting the orchestra on a part-time standing was one of three options the national company was considering to save money.

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The other two, the MU said last night, were the orchestra being made redundant and being replaced by another orchestra in Scotland, and a third option, which was the orchestra being made redundant and being replaced with a freelance orchestra, which may have contained some former Scottish opera players.

Yesterday The Herald reported that the orchestra had reluctantly voted in favour of the part-time proposals, which will substantially cut their working hours and pay.

The management of the opera, led by Alex Reedijk, its general director, believes the orchestra is “under- utilised” and putting it on a part-time footing will save a significant proportion of the £2 million the company spends annually on wages.

In the 12 months from April 2011, the players will be offered 31 weeks’ work and, from April 2012, a minimum of 28 weeks a year.

This move to a part-time orchestra comes six years after the loss of the company’s full-time chorus.

Orchestra insiders believe the vote in favour of the management’s proposals, which The Herald understands was carried by only three votes, was motivated more by “fear” of what a “no” vote would have meant more than any acceptance of the management plan.

Many musicians feared that if they voted “no”, the company would turn to another options, and every player would lose their job.

Yesterday, Sheena Macdonald, the union’s regional organiser, said many players had voted in favour of the plan because it was the “least worse” option.

“The feeling was that the proposal was unpalatable but the alternatives weren’t palatable either,” she said.

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