Opera Australia has today contacted all its staff with regards to their immediate future with the company.
An email from Rory Jeffes, OA’s Chief Executive Officer sets out company policy until late May, a period in which they “have no work for most of our people”.
“To preserve the future of our Company and its people, we have taken the difficult decision to progressively stand down the majority of our workforce temporarily from Monday,” Jeffes writes. “This stand down will happen quickly and proportionately across the entire OA family. I stress that myself, Lyndon, the Executive and the entire OA Board are committed to doing everything necessary to retain the unique and diverse skills of our workforce to flourish when we bounce back… and we will.
Company employees are being shielded to an extent, however, unlike many being laid off in the retail and service sectors.
Stood down permanent and fixed-term staff will receive 50% of their base weekly salary (calculated to a maximum 38-hour week). There is also an option to access accrued annual or long service leave capped at 30% each week and an additional one week of Special Leave (also able to be taken at 30% each week) for staff who exhaust annual or long service leave balances.
“For example, if your base weekly salary is calculated currently on a 38-hour week, you will receive a payment equivalent of 19 hours and you will be able to access up to 11.4 hours of accrued annual or long service leave each week,” explains Jeffes.
“From a practical perspective, your manager will provide further information about the timing of when your department will begin the temporary stand down. You will also receive a letter in the coming days that explains exactly what this means if this applies to you. This will include further details regarding the payment, as well as specific instructions for how to apply for annual, long service and Special Leave during this period.
“These arrangements are temporary and will remain in place until the end of May. Over this period, we will continue to review the circumstances and make further decisions in a timely manner.”
The fate of OA’s casual staff is not addressed in this missive.
This development comes hard on the heels of OA’s decision to stand down its orchestra, which was, until very recently, one of the busiest in the country, playing around 300 performances each year. That decision saw musicians playing in protest outside Opera Australia’s Surry Hills headquarters and drew the ire of the MEAA.
“The fact this orchestra has been stood down is ominous and a shocking indictment on the failure of government to prepare contingencies for underfunded arts organisations in an unanticipated event like coronavirus,” said Paul Davies, director, MEAA Musicians.