The Met and its unions announce a 72-hour lockout delay.
The Met's current situation reminds one of this classic Sydney Pollack thriller.
Promotional image for Three Days of the Condor © 1975 Paramount Pictures.
The news came just 87 minutes before the Met was due to lock out fifteen of the sixteen unions whose collective bargaining agreements expire at midnight tonight. The unions currently negotiating with the Met include Local 802 (the orchestra), the American Guild of Musical Artists (singers, dancers, stage managers, and directors), and Local 1 (the stagehands), but a lockout would affect most of the 2,400 employees of America's largest opera house.
In an email received from the Met press department by Superconductor the Met announced that three of the fifteen unions have reached agreements with the opera company for new contracts. These include Local 32BJ (ushers, ticket takers, cleaning staff, porters, security guards, office workers), Local 210 (the call center) and Local 30, which represents building engineers. The twelve unions still in negotiations are: AGMA, Local 802, Local One, Local Four (parks crew); Local 751 (box office treasurers); Local 764 (costume and wardrobe); Local 794 (camera operators); Local 798 (wigs, hair, and make-up); Local 829 (scenic artists and designers); Local 829BP (bill poster); Local 1456 (painter); and Directors Guild of America (directors and stage managers). The Met has not had a labor stoppage since 1980. The 1980 lockout delayed the start of that season until December and did considerable damage to the company's subscriber and donation base.
At issue: general manager Peter Gelb's proposal to cut 16% from overtime and health benefits to Metropolitan Opera singers, musicians, stagehands and other workers in an effort to avoid an impending financial crisis.
In recent seasons, the Met has been beset with dwindling audiences and the high cost of mounting six new productions each season, many of which have been met with hostility from critics and audience alike. The low attendance numbers have forced the company to spend some of its endowment to make ends meet.
If the labor dispute is resolved in the coming weeks, the Met plans to open the 2014-15 season with a new Bartlett Sher production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Negotiations have turned ugly in recent weeks, with both sides releasing barbed comments to New York media.
The situation may have been saved with the arrival today of mediator Allison Beck. The deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Ms. Beck arrived to mediate the dispute between the Met, AGMA and Local 802. A New York Times article earlier today reported that Local 1 is already meeting with Met management.