Saturday, August 2, 2014
NEW YORK (AP) — Unionized workers at the Metropolitan Opera said Friday they want to work with management to avoid shutting down one of the world's most prestigious cultural institutions.
A day after a lockout deadline was postponed, Tino Gagliardi, president of the Met orchestra's union, told about 100 performers and other union members at a rally that it was negotiating in good faith.
Met General Manager Peter Gelb had threatened a lockout at 12:01 a.m. Friday if the unions did not agree to pay cuts. Management announced late Thursday it had agreed to a federal mediator's request to extend the deadline for the threatened lockout until 12:01 a.m. Monday.
The Met also announced it had reached new contract agreements with three of the 15 unions whose contracts expired, including those representing ushers, security guards and cleaning staff.
"The Met is hopeful that the 72-hour extension of the negotiating period will allow productive talks with the unions who have not yet reached agreement with the Met," Gelb said in a statement Friday. "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."
Gelb has demanded that the unions accept salary cuts of about 17 percent, to cover a deficit of $2.8 million in the Met's $326 million annual budget.
But unions representing about 2,500 chorus singers, orchestra musicians, stagehands, carpenters and others say they'll lose as much as 30 percent of their income through additional pension cuts and higher health care costs.
Workers at the rally wore black T-shirts that read, "United for the Metropolitan Opera."
"We believe that with well-chosen productions and with expert management, the Met can live within its budget and present innovative grand opera while also offering competitive compensation to attract and retain the best musicians in the world," Gagliardi said.
Tenor Nathan Carlisle said the cuts the opera proposed were a "shock" and that union members were willing to work with Gelb to find a middle ground.
"We need to do that," Carlisle said. "Not only for the artists that you see today at this rally today but for the vendors, for the local businesses, for the people of New York City who've been coming to this opera house for years and years and years."