Metropolitan Opera says potential labor crisis has been averted

The Metropolitan Opera says a potential labor crisis has been averted

The Metropolitan Opera said Wednesday that it expects to reach new contracts with its unions, thereby avoiding a lockout and allowing the 2014-15 season to begin in September without interruption.

The company said it arrived at a new agreement with its stagehands union late Tuesday and that final negotiations will take place Thursday with eight smaller unions representing backstage personnel. Earlier this week, federal mediators said that the Met had reached tentative agreements with its unions representing orchestral musicians and stage artists, including singers.

The unions that still have unsettled contracts with the Met include those that represent box-office treasurers, costume and wardrobe personnel, scenic artists and designers, camera operators and others.

The stagehands union, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said Wednesday that its agreement with the Met is tentative and still awaits ratification.

"This wasn't easy," Matthew Loeb, international president of IATSE, said in a news release. "However, after a summer spent negotiating, in these final hours we were able to craft an agreement that allows the show to go on and is fair for our members."

He said the agreement includes "mandatory cost reductions from management" as well as an independent monitor to track the Met's budget performance.

The Met has been engaged in tense negotiations with the unions for the last few months as company leaders have looked for ways to reduce costs. Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, has stated that the company is facing budgetary challenges and needs to bring costs under control, especially in the area of compensation.

Some unions have criticized Gelb's leadership, saying that he has overspent on lavish productions that have failed to enhance the company's reputation. Like many American opera companies, the Met must raise money from donors as public interest in the art form wanes. 

The New York company's season is scheduled to begin in September with a new staging of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."

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