The Metropolitan Opera in New York avoided a lockout of union workers late Thursday by extending contract negotiations by 72 hours. The opera had previously threatened a work stoppage if negotiations with 15 of its unions weren't concluded by midnight Thursday.
A federal mediator was called in from Washington to help broker an agreement Thursday. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which requested the delay, is leading talks between the Met and two of its unions, one representing musical artists, including dancers, singers and stage managers, and the other representing orchestra musicians and music staff.
A release sent by the Met late Thursday said that the company had reached new contract agreements with three of the 15 unions involved in the negotiations, those representing building engineers, call center workers, ushers, cleaning staff, security guards and others.
"The Met is hopeful that the 72-hour extension will allow productive negotiations with all the other unions who have not yet reached agreement with the Met," the release stated.
The labor dispute has centered on cuts that Met general manager Peter Gelb has proposed to help deal with the company's financial decline, including weakening box-office revenue. Gelb has argued that pay and benefits compose two-thirds of the company's budget and must be brought under control.
The union representing orchestral musicians said in a separate release late Thursday that the Met's decision to extend negotiations was constructive but not practical.
"Settling this dispute in three days is highly unrealistic given Gelb's proposed draconian cuts," Tino Gagliardi, president of the Met Orchestra union, Local 802 AFM, said in the release.
A lockout could jeopardize the start of the Met's 2014-15 season, preparations for which are underway. The season is scheduled to start in September with a new production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."