New York Met strikes deal with two unions amid standoff

NEW YORK- New York's Metropolitan Opera, locked in a dispute with staff over proposed pay cuts that could delay the new season, struck tentative deals Monday with two of its main labor unions.
As the biggest classical music organization in the United States, the prestigious institution dwarfs counterparts in Europe with a budget of $326 million in 2013.

While spending and fundraising have increased, ticket sales have declined steadily for the last four seasons and the Met says it must slash overhead now to avoid bankruptcy in the future.
With labor costs representing two-thirds of the budget, managing director Peter Gelb has proposed cutting wages by some 17 percent, prompting much opposition. Negotiations to end the dispute began in early July amid the threat of a lockout and no pay.
"We are pleased to announce that earlier this morning the Met successfully reached new agreements with the Met orchestra and chorus," the management said in a statement.
Details were not immediately made public.
But a federal mediator, Allison Beck -- calling the negotiations "difficult and highly complex"-- said the accords still had to be ratified by union members.
The Met's management added it had extended, through midnight Tuesday, a deadline for other unions with "unsettled contracts" to "secure new deals with the institution."
"We remain hopeful that the company's 2014-15 season will open on schedule" on September 22, it said.
Personnel contracts had been up for renewal on July 31.
The musicians' unions have said poor ticket sales reflect bad Gelb productions, not declining interest in an elitist art form, and that slashing salaries is unfair.
Rather than cutting pay, they have called on Gelb -- who has held his position since 2006 -- to save by commissioning one or two fewer productions, staging fewer overtime operas and slashing wasteful rehearsal time.

Tuesday, August 19th 2014

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