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Thread: English Touring Opera (ETO) Goes Woke .....

  1. #76
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    The ultimate irony here is that the musicians who have just been hired can very well end up in the same position as those who have been discarded. Hypothetically, in the not so distant future, a government can be elected which doesn't support this diversity policy, and in some way render it obsolete. Short of changing laws, it can be abandoned in practice.

    Diversity isn't even the core issue here. The real problem is, as I argued earlier, economic. It is how over decades, worker's rights have been eroded, and how so many now are forced into temporary employment. Economists call this class the precariat, and its a category that cuts across a person's education, country of origin and industry they work in.

    Its no wonder so many have lost faith in those who govern them. They are not so much out of touch as playing dice with the lives of future generations. Many of the rights which where fought for by unions in the past, for example, are now in the process of being dismantled.
    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-19-2021 at 03:01.
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  3. #77
    Senior Member Forster's Avatar
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    On the other hand, in the UK at least, successive governments have tinkered both positively and negatively with employment rights. It's by no means the case that rights have merely been eroded. For example:

    https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fun...n-updates#gref

    Whilst I get the 'irony' bit, it seems to me that the ETO is simply doing this year what it has done in previous years, and which no-one paid any attention to: freelancers were already being "sacked" from year to year, because that's the nature of its employment practice.

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  5. #78
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    You cannot terminate a contract that has come to its natural end.

    They are not terminating anyone - they are not giving some musicians new contracts for the next touring season. There is a difference. It is not uncommon for touring companies or shows to recast their musicians every so often to suit the needs of the production or simply because other members of the cast are not renewing their contracts because they are retiring or have new gigs.

    Lebrecht uses the word "dismissal" not the ETO. It misrepresents what the ETO is doing. Language is being twisted to suit a political agenda. No-one was sacked or terminated, their contracts were not renewed


    2+2 does not equal 5. It doesn't matter how many fingers the party is holding up.

    When is the two minute hate on? I wouldn't like to miss it.
    Last edited by AlexD; Sep-19-2021 at 09:50.

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  7. #79
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forster View Post
    On the other hand, in the UK at least, successive governments have tinkered both positively and negatively with employment rights. It's by no means the case that rights have merely been eroded. For example:

    https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fun...n-updates#gref

    Whilst I get the 'irony' bit, it seems to me that the ETO is simply doing this year what it has done in previous years, and which no-one paid any attention to: freelancers were already being "sacked" from year to year, because that's the nature of its employment practice.
    The writing was obviously on the wall, and companies do need some flexibility in hiring and firing. However, I think that this case boils down to double standards. In the application of this diversity policy, permanent employees are protected from its immediate impact, while temporary employees are not.

    I think that anyone who has been at least somewhat impacted by the pandemic will find it hard to apply dry legalistic reasoning to this case. Policy doesn't just operate in theory, it effects people's lives in reality.
    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-19-2021 at 12:27.
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  8. #80
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    This sort of issue is perfect fodder for one of our modern culture wars. Truth and detail are likely, therefore, to be early victims of any reporting on it. However it is, there are some things I am not sure about in this particular issue:

    - Not all their contracted musicians were told they would not be renewed - which is legally different to being sacked but might still leave many with few options for alternative gainful employment (at least without being willing to move home and perhaps country of residence) - and I am unclear how the company decided who would get renewed and who would not be.

    - I wonder, perhaps a lack of merit was behind their decisions but they could not claim this without a history of having discussed poor performance with those deemed to be unfit for future renewal. So they might have to keep quiet about the real reasons for their actions.

    Those who have lost their jobs - jobs they might have expected to hold for life - may find it hard to find alternative employment. This might be especially the case for those who are older. There may even be a case for suggesting that the dismissals were motivated by ageism.

    Is it the case the the ETO acknowledges that their earlier recruitment had in some way excluded candidates from some backgrounds (regardless of merit)? It is likely that this was the case but admitting it might be difficult and would beg the questions of whether and how they will ensure that future recruitments are fair. These are important questions, however. Or are they just saying they are only going to recruit people who come from a background that was unrepresented in their previous staffing?

    Is the diversity in question solely concerned with race, colour and religion? Or does it also have gender dimensions? And what is their policy concerning ageism (mentioned above)?

  9. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forster View Post
    On the other hand, in the UK at least, successive governments have tinkered both positively and negatively with employment rights. It's by no means the case that rights have merely been eroded. For example:

    https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fun...n-updates#gref

    Whilst I get the 'irony' bit, it seems to me that the ETO is simply doing this year what it has done in previous years, and which no-one paid any attention to: freelancers were already being "sacked" from year to year, because that's the nature of its employment practice.
    yes - if the musicians had been hired as year-to-year independent contractors with the expectation of an unbinding handshake deal that the contract would be renewed in perpetuity, there's really nothing "wrong" here - except the ridiculous situation that this is at all an equitable labor arrangement for anyone involved.

    it should be relatively obvious why papers such as the Times/Telegraph/Daily Mail, and Norman Lebrecht, would rather not focus on the employment rights issue and focus on right wing culture war issues here.
    Last edited by fbjim; Sep-20-2021 at 15:19.

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  11. #82
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    ^ The difference is that precarious employment has been normalised, this diversity policy hasn't.

    The political process of using think tanks like the one which devised this policy has been standard practice now for ages. Government pays someone to give them the advice that they want, which in turn legitimizes the implementation of what they had intended from the start. Nobody, least of all voters, believe this to be something other than the cynical PR exercise it is.

    But to get back to the case at hand, it looks like there was no way out for the ETO musicians, pandemic or not they just have to suck it up. By necessity, unions prioritise the rights of permanent employees, so they won't be able to help much here.

    Every cloud has its silver lining, and I guess given all the negative media attention this case has received, other ensembles will think twice before doing exactly the same thing.
    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-20-2021 at 23:07.
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  12. #83
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    I would suggest that the various employment and other lawyers who have thus far contributed to the discussion in this thread, read the ETO Director's letter to the musicians who have so far been engaged in a contract for services. It's quite an important document in this case. And perhaps you all might want to brush up on caselaw (recent decided cases on this matter).

  13. #84
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    I would also direct the experts who have contributed to this discussion to the recent decided case of the 'Uber Drivers'. The principles decided are highly germane.

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  15. #85
    Senior Member Forster's Avatar
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    Should one of the aggrieved freelancers take the ETO to court, then a determination can be made on the case. Until then, we can all rest easy in our armchair speculation about what the points are on which the matter might be decided. I doubt it will hinge on what the CEO wrote in his letter, but on what actions were actually taken and what parts of employment law a judge decides applies in this case. One take on the Uber case says this:

    The Supreme Court explained that the true picture of a working relationship may not be fully represented by a written agreement, even where it has been read, understood and signed by both parties. Therefore, the real situation and conduct of the parties must also be considered.
    https://www.shoosmiths.co.uk/insight...-for-employers

    If the written contract is less important than the reality of the arrangement, how much less so is the CEO's letter?

    Have any of the musicians themselves actually spoken out? Is a court case likely?
    Last edited by Forster; Sep-21-2021 at 07:05.

  16. #86
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forster View Post
    Should one of the aggrieved freelancers take the ETO to court, then a determination can be made on the case. Until then, we can all rest easy in our armchair speculation about what the points are on which the matter might be decided. I doubt it will hinge on what the CEO wrote in his letter, but on what actions were actually taken and what parts of employment law a judge decides applies in this case. One take on the Uber case says this:



    https://www.shoosmiths.co.uk/insight...-for-employers

    If the written contract is less important than the reality of the arrangement, how much less so is the CEO's letter?

    Have any of the musicians themselves actually spoken out? Is a court case likely?
    You're chewing more than you've bitten off.

  17. #87
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryPenfold View Post
    I would also direct the experts who have contributed to this discussion to the recent decided case of the 'Uber Drivers'. The principles decided are highly germane.
    Drivers are so important, yet they're at the bottom end of the gig economy. On a related note, I like the work of Ken Loach, who has for decades directed many films on how changes have impacted on the working class. A few here would remember Riff-Raff from the '90's.

    A couple of years ago I saw Sorry We Missed You, which tells a story which is all too real. He's a delivery driver, she's a nurse and they are both precariat, outsourced labour. They have two children, and due to unpredictable work can't devote the time and energy they'd like to their family. The older son goes into petty crime and the younger daughter can't fully understand why her parents are hardly around or awake.

    In the end, the father gets badly injured in a mugging, but has to work the next day. He can't afford to be sick because there's a clause in his contract that if he misses a day he has to hire another driver to cover him (or get fined).

    That lack of resolution is reality for so many people. Although the music industry isn't the same as transport, there are parallels between them since this sort of casualisation and outsourcing of labour cuts across the entire economy. The current pandemic has made this even more apparent than it already was.

    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-22-2021 at 22:36.
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  19. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    Drivers are so important, yet they're at the bottom end of the gig economy. On a related note, I like the work of Ken Loach, who has for decades directed many films on how changes have impacted on the working class. A few here would remember Riff-Raff from the '90's.
    as i like telling people, what would you notice more- if every marketing director and project manager took the day off tomorrow, or if every cashier did?

  20. #89
    Senior Member JTS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexD View Post
    You cannot terminate a contract that has come to its natural end.

    They are not terminating anyone - they are not giving some musicians new contracts for the next touring season. There is a difference. It is not uncommon for touring companies or shows to recast their musicians every so often to suit the needs of the production or simply because other members of the cast are not renewing their contracts because they are retiring or have new gigs.

    Lebrecht uses the word "dismissal" not the ETO. It misrepresents what the ETO is doing. Language is being twisted to suit a political agenda. No-one was sacked or terminated, their contracts were not renewed


    2+2 does not equal 5. It doesn't matter how many fingers the party is holding up.

    When is the two minute hate on? I wouldn't like to miss it.
    You have hit the nail on the head because a freelancer is a freelancer. My son is a freelance musician in another area and was one day told by someone he had worked with for quite some time these services were no longer required and the hirer wanted to work with somebody else. He had absolutely no rights whatsoever because he was only hired on a freelance basis. Someone else was found who was reckoned to be more suitable and he just had to suck it up and find other work. Thankfully his talent ensured he did. But there was no recourse to law. What the ETO did was make the mistake of a very clumsily written document explaining their reasons. My own feeling this is a retrograde step as a musician should merely be hired on the basis of their ability not on some diversity whim by an arts council freak who probably doesn’t know Bach from the Beatles. But this is the nature of balmy society

  21. #90
    Senior Member Forster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTS View Post
    My own feeling this is a retrograde step as a musician should merely be hired on the basis of their ability not on some diversity whim by an arts council freak who probably doesn’t know Bach from the Beatles.
    So the idea of diversity, never mind the clumsy letter, should have no part to play in recruitment at all? Or is music some special field and diversity is okay in others?

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