In probably the most severe labor disputes to erupt within the tradition world because the coronavirus pandemic halted performances across the globe, the Metropolitan Opera stated on Monday that it deliberate to lock out its stagehands at midnight after the union representing the employees balked on the firm’s calls for for pay cuts.
The Met, which has been shut by the pandemic since March, says that it wants to chop labor prices considerably whether it is to outlive till and after it reopens. So the corporate, which has furloughed most of its work power with out pay since April, has provided to start paying many workers as much as $1,500 every week if their unions comply with long-term contracts that embody a 30 p.c minimize in pay. Half of these cuts could be restored as soon as the Met’s field workplace returns to pre-pandemic ranges.
The unions have bristled on the request, saying that their members can’t deal with such a long-term monetary hit after going many months with out pay. After talks with the highly effective union that represents the Met’s roughly 300 stagehands, Native One of many Worldwide Alliance of Theatrical Stage Workers, did not yield an settlement this weekend, the Met introduced that it deliberate to lock out the union’s employees.
“I notice it’s extremely painful what we’re asking them to do,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s basic supervisor, stated in an interview. “However what we’re making an attempt to do is maintain the Met alive, and the one strategy to obtain that’s to cut back our prices.”
After all the lockout is not going to have its traditional affect through the pandemic, when few Met stagehands are working; just a few dozen stagehands have not too long ago been on the opera home, Mr. Gelb stated. However extra had been set to return later this month to start developing the units for the operas that the Met plans to stage subsequent fall, when it hopes to reopen.
A number of different performing arts organizations dealing with a monetary disaster because the pandemic has induced them to cancel many months of performances have negotiated pay cuts with the unions representing their employees, together with on the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.
After the Met’s lockout begins at midnight on Tuesday, Mr. Gelb stated, the stagehands who’re presently engaged on initiatives like sustaining stage mechanisms will not be capable of work. He added that if an settlement just isn’t reached by the spring and summer time, when the Met normally ramps up its set development, many extra workers will find yourself out of labor.
James J. Claffey Jr., the president of Native One, stated in an interview on Monday that in bargaining negotiations he had prompt a lesser pay minimize, however that his provide was rejected. Not one of the stagehands had been keen to take a 30 p.c minimize, he added.
“To do that throughout a lethal virus is simply ridiculous,” Mr. Claffey stated of the lockout. “However that’s their leverage at this level.”
Mr. Gelb stated Native One’s proposal was insignificant when it comes to addressing the issues the Met faces.
Final month, Mr. Gelb despatched a letter to Mr. Claffey saying that if they might not attain an settlement by Dec. 5, the Met “could have no alternative apart from to lock out Native One workers, using different momentary means to assemble the units.” He added that in 2019, the common price to the Met of a full-time stagehand, together with advantages, was $260,000, and wrote that “the well being disaster has compounded the Met’s earlier monetary fragility, threatening our very existence.”
Mr. Gelb has said that many of the pay cuts he’s searching for may very well be achieved by modifications to work guidelines. However the main unions that work with the Met have accused its administration of profiting from the pandemic to push via concessions that the corporate has lengthy sought to change these guidelines, which have been established over a few years of collective bargaining.
Native One’s contract with the Met expired on the finish of July. Since Mr. Gelb despatched the letter to Mr. Claffey in November, there have been two digital negotiating conferences, however the deadline Mr. Gelb talked about handed over the weekend with out an settlement.
The Met has requested different unions whose contracts haven’t but expired, like those who characterize its orchestra musicians and refrain, to open negotiations early and comply with the cuts. In alternate, lots of their members would be capable of start receiving partial paychecks for the primary time in months. Up to now, these unions haven’t agreed to reopen their contracts early.
Adam Krauthamer, the president of the union that represents the orchestra, Native 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, stated that his union had made its personal proposal for cutbacks that don’t “intestine their contract for many years to return.” In a press release, he denounced the stagehand lockout, saying that the Met’s revival “shouldn’t be on the expense of the very employees who fairly actually make the group operate behind the scenes.”
Mr. Gelb contends that reductions within the firm’s bills shouldn’t be sought via the pruning of its reside shows. He stated that two-thirds of the Met’s annual spending — $200 million — goes to labor prices. The Met’s non-unionized workers has already made sacrifices, he added, together with wage cuts, his personal foregoing of a wage because the finish of March and pre-pandemic cuts to well being and pension advantages.
“We shouldn’t be decreasing them by decreasing our inventive productiveness,” he stated of the corporate’s bills. “As a result of that’s the key to holding donors on board and getting audiences to return again.”
Mr. Claffey stated that the stagehands acknowledge that the Met has excessive inventive requirements, however added that he rejected the concept that the associated fee reductions ought to fall totally on labor.
“The Met desires labor to imagine the whole burden,” he stated. “It’s a recipe for catastrophe.”