The Metropolitan Opera reaches an agreement with the union representing Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera, whose efforts to cut wages for its workers to help it survive the pandemic had left it locked in a bitter dispute with its unions, threatening to derail its scheduled September reopening, announced on Tuesday that ‘he had come to an agreement with the union. representing his choir and other workers.
The union, the American Guild of Musical Artists – which also represents soloists, dancers, actors and stage managers – is the first of the Met’s three largest unions to strike such a deal after months of sometimes bitter division between the work and direction on the depth and last the pay cuts of the pandemic should be. The Met had sought to cut wage costs for its top-paid unions by 30%, which it said would cut these workers’ take-home pay by around 20%.
Terms of the deal – the culmination of 14 weeks of negotiations – were not immediately disclosed; the company said it will remain confidential until the union holds a vote to ratify the deal on May 24.
In recent weeks, New York officials have taken steps to ease restrictions on live performances, and in recent days several major Broadway shows have announced plans to resume performances in September and October. But whether the Met can reopen in September, after the pandemic forced the opera house to remain closed for more than a year, depends on how quickly it can resolve its remaining workforce issues.
Peter Gelb, chief executive of the Met, said in a statement that he was grateful to the guild for “recognizing the extraordinary economic challenges facing the Met in the seasons to come.”
Leonard Egert, the guild’s executive director, said in a statement that the new contract “will ensure the Met becomes a fairer and better place to work.”
“We are happy to reach a new agreement during the most trying time in the history of the performing arts,” he said.
The Met’s deal with the guild is just one step towards reopening. The union that represents its stagehands, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, has been on lockdown since December as the two parties failed to agree on pay cuts. Without its union mechanics, the starting performance will probably be impossible. And the union representing the Met Orchestra is still negotiating its contract.
The opera company, the country’s largest performing arts organization, claims it lost $ 150 million in earned revenue – including the sale of tickets to the opera and its movie simulcasts, as well as revenue of its store and restaurants – since the coronavirus pandemic. forced it to close its doors over a year ago. If the Met reopens in September, he will have spent 18 months without live performances in his opera house.
Met management has argued that such a long period of closure – and the uncertainty of its audiences returning to a time when New York City tourism could take years to rebound to pre-pandemic levels – is forcing it to seek financial sacrifices on the part of its employees. . He said half of his proposed pay cuts would be reinstated once ticket revenues and basic donations returned to pre-pandemic levels. A number of major US orchestras and opera companies have already negotiated pay cuts with their workers to help them survive the pandemic.
After the opera closed, the members of his orchestra and choir went unpaid for almost a year. Then the company brought them to the bargaining table with an offer of up to $ 1,543 per week, less than half of what they typically get paid.
Union members plan to rally outside Lincoln Center on Thursday in solidarity during tense negotiations with management. Union leaders accused Met management of using the pandemic as a reason to force workers to make concessions.
If approved, the agreement with the guild will come into effect on August 1; for now, union members will continue to receive partial payments.