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Trade unionism in action at the Royal Opera House

Members of the Royal Opera House Orchestra have voted in favour of taking a lower pay increase for 2016 - to fund an improved pension scheme for new and future colleagues.

Members of the Royal Opera House (ROH) Orchestra have voted in favour of taking a lower pay increase for 2016-17 in order to fund an improved pension scheme for new and future colleagues.

As a result of pension auto-enrolment, a reduced pension offer was put in place at ROH for all new staff, including musicians, to deal with the increased cost of pension contributions across the organisation. The orchestra has since made it their top priority in pay negotiations to redress the balance between existing orchestra member and musicians joining the orchestra post auto-enrolment. 

An offer was made by our members to fund an improved pension scheme themselves by taking a 0.5% lower pay rise than other ROH staff. It was calculated that this saving year on year would enable the ROH to increase pension contributions for new members from a maximum of 4% to 8.5%. The 0.5% loss from members’ salaries will fund the improved pension scheme for roughly 30 years. 

This is such a great example of a collective of MU members working together to secure contractual benefits for fellow musicians who don’t currently have the ability or bargaining power to fight for their own rights. Some of the musicians who will benefit from this may not even be out of Primary School yet.

The ballot result was overwhelmingly in favour of compromising on pay to achieve this result.

Extras and Deputies have also made headway in their campaign to return to parity of pay with salaried ROH orchestra members.

They have been arguing to regain pay parity with their full time counterparts after a 3 year pay freeze was imposed on them.

ROH management has given the Union a clear assurance that they are committed to a return to parity, and they are therefore offering an additional 2% on the freelance rates this year over and above the increase awarded to the rest of the company.

These examples of collective action at the ROH show what can be achieved when there is a high level of MU membership in a workplace, and musicians pull together with the help of the Union to reach a common goal.

There are lots of ways to get involved in your Union, and be sure your voice is heard. Take a look at the options, or get in touch with your Regional Office.

By Naomi Pohl, MU Assistant General Secretary


Published: 31/05/2017
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