Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Kim Gaynor, the head of the Vancouver Opera festival, is photographed in the wardrobe department of the Vancouver Opera facilities in Vancouver, B.C., on April 13, 2017.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Staff and contractors at Vancouver Opera have been asked to take pay cuts, as the opera company's officials work toward financial stability. The company is looking for a 2-per-cent rollback across the organization.

Staff were told of the proposed measure last week and offered various options for cuts, first at a meeting and later in an online poll, asking which reduction method they preferred. According to correspondence obtained by The Globe and Mail, options include unpaid days off, reductions involving provincial health-care premiums and matching RRSP contributions, an across-the-board 2-per-cent salary reduction and donations to the opera as a payroll deduction (for which employees would receive a tax credit) – or various combinations of those options.

The atmosphere among staff has been described by someone with knowledge of the situation as "a bit of a revolt."

Story continues below advertisement

VO's annual budget this year is projected to be about $9.6-million, according to general director Kim Gaynor when reached by The Globe. In a note that appeared with the online poll, Ms. Gaynor said the company has found more than $800,000 in savings for next year.

The cuts in pay are expected to save the opera about $45,000. In addition to the administrative staff, musicians, chorus members and backstage staff are being asked to participate equally with a reduction of two per cent, according to the survey note.

Stunned staff have sent a letter of protest to senior management, saying it was unfair for staff to be asked to make decisions that would adversely affect their colleagues. The poll closes June 30, but the letter indicated that any staff who had not already voted would not be doing so, and that the votes registered should not be taken as the majority opinion.

"The proposed reductions represent a severe blow to an already weakened company morale, damaged by a lack of transparency, poor communication and uninformed decision-making," the letter states.

It alleges that VO staff were not consulted on decisions affecting their work and departments. "This has resulted in a misuse of company resources, as staff experts are not involved in planning and often forced to try to work within parameters which they know to be unfeasible, and on situations they could've made suggestions to improve."

When contacted by The Globe, Ms. Gaynor said discussions were under way and that the cost-cutting process was in its early stages.

"It's necessary for us next year to control expenses more tightly and [the wage rollback] is just one very small part of a much bigger program to go and look at all ways in which the organization can be more financially and fiscally responsible," she said.

Story continues below advertisement

As for the negative response to the online polling, Ms. Gaynor said the company was trying to be inclusive.

"It's always a discussion with everyone. I consider everyone in the organization that makes this place work. It's not a hierarchy where we decide and they have to conform; it's a discussion," she said.

"We've asked people in the organization in which way they would prefer for us to do that because of course there are many different ways that you could achieve the same result," she later added. "And my feeling is that it shouldn't be imposed; that it should be a discussion and a negotiation. So people have been asked for their opinion on how best to achieve those results so it's not us imposing a solution; it's a participatory conversation."

Ms. Gaynor would not confirm details of any other possible cuts, including whether performances will be scaled back or rehearsal schedules altered.

"No decision has been reached. The process has just begun so it's very premature to be talking about it," she said.

This year marked the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival, which replaced VO's traditional "stagione" format – a measure implemented not just to save costs but to respond to changing demographics and market conditions. The decision attracted mixed reviews from subscribers and others in the arts community. This year was Ms. Gaynor's first season as general director, after the retirement last year of James Wright.

Story continues below advertisement

The protest letter provides insight into this spring's inaugural festival, at least from the point of view of staff: "Many of us worked tirelessly to ensure that the events as outlined by management were able to proceed, without understanding the logic or justification behind many of the decisions we were required to implement. Now, we are being asked to sacrifice pay, benefits, or take unpaid leave, without any indication of how we could continue to manage our current workload, whether there will be a guarantee of no further cuts or changes to current staff positions, or what plans are in place regarding current staff vacancies and potential additional contract positions," the letter states. "This move on the part of VO leadership will have a far more damaging impact on staff morale and commitment to the organization than can be made up for by any small amount of potential savings."

While the two main-stage operas – new productions of Otello and Dead Man Walking – were critical hits, attendance was not where it should have been, according to one opera supporter. This enthusiastic supporter, who asked not to be named, indicated that if the city wants to keep opera in town, people are going to need to better support the productions the company mounts.

"Vancouver Opera has a very important role to play in the ecology of the arts community in Vancouver and we're all working very hard to ensure that we can do that in a fiscally responsible way," Ms. Gaynor said. "My hope is that everyone will understand that and will want to participate in it voluntarily for the sake of preserving the company, the employment of individuals, the employment of artists and for the audiences who enjoy what we do."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies