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By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK Aug 1 New York's Metropolitan Opera
agreed to extend negotiations with its labor unions for 72
hours, preventing a threatened lockout at the nation's largest
performing arts organization, the Met said late on Thursday.
The Met Opera also said it had reached new contract
agreements with three of the 15 involved labor unions. The three
unions, whose contracts were to expire at midnight Friday,
represent building engineers and opera staff such as ticket
takers, ushers and guards.
"We want to work together with union representatives and do
everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we've
agreed to an extension," Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in
The deadline extension came at the request of a federal
mediator who joined the negotiations earlier in the day with the
aim of averting a work stoppage, which threatened to derail the
new opera season due to begin in September.
It was not clear if a lockout would still happen if
agreements with the remaining unions were not reached by the end
of the three-day window.
The dispute is the most acrimonious at the Met in decades,
giving rise to the unusual spectacle of the Met's own musicians
criticizing new productions mounted by general manager Peter
Gelb as not very good except for the singing and playing.
Gelb has said he needs to reduce the cost of the company's
orchestra players, chorus singers and stagehands by about 17
percent in order for the opera house to be sustainable.
About two thirds of the Met's operating expenses of $327
million in the last financial year went on pay and benefits for
unionized employees, the organization said.
Some of the unions have said the Met's proposals would cut
far deeper into employees' pay than the Met has said.
The orchestra's union, Local 802 of the American Federation
of Musicians, says it made counter-proposals that would save the
Met nearly $38 million a year, including a reduction in new
productions and a more efficient use of overtime.
"Settling this dispute in three days is highly unrealistic
given Gelb's proposed draconian cuts," said Tino Gagliardi,
president of the orchestra's union.
Both management and the unions have questioned the other's
The Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical
Stage Employees was pursuing talks but without a federal
mediator because negotiations have been less fractious, people
on both sides said.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York,; Editing
by Sandra Maler, Eric M. Johnson, Robert Birsel)