Opera Australia has announced that it is temporarily standing down the majority of its staff from March 30 until the end of May, under an employee support package which will allow them to access up to 80 percent of their regular salary (based on a 38-hour week). Employees will be paid 50 percent of their salary, and have the option to top up with 30 percent from their annual leave, effectively giving them a package of 80 percent of their usual package.

The package is designed to retain the company’s workforce in the face of widespread layoffs across the arts and entertainment sectors following the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus.

Diego Torre and members of the Opera Australia chorus in Attila. Photograph © Prudence Upton

“Like so many Australian companies, OA is faced with a complete absence of ticketing revenue following the government’s closure of all performances in the coming months, in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. OA recognises that the health and well-being of its staff is essential in securing the Company’s future,” said a media release.

“The announcement will provide some certainty for OA’s staff amid an increasingly volatile environment.”

While acknowledging the government’s support for the Company’s casual employees through its recently announced stimulus packages, OA said that it is “continuing discussions with the relevant federal and state governments to secure further provisions that will enable the Company to continue to support its workforce beyond the end of May”.

OA Chairman, David Mortimer, said that the Company is working hard to ensure the retention of its workforce. “For many this is the most challenging time of their lives, and certainly for the people of Opera Australia. Their commitment, tireless efforts, passion and unique skills define the Company. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of all our stakeholders and the arts community,” said Mortimer.

“On behalf of the Board, we are grateful to everyone that makes up the OA team for their efforts, along with their patience and support through these difficult times.”

The Executive Team of OA, comprising the leadership group across all areas of the Company, will continue to work through this period – but will all be taking reductions in their pay either in line with those who have been temporarily stood down or greater. “They will continue to focus on supporting their staff and working to ensure OA is in a position to reinvigorate its activities when restrictions are eased,” said the OA statement.