Thursday, July 24, 2014

IATSE Announces: Management at the Metropolitan is Threatening a Lockout

That's the management at the Metropolitan Opera.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) issued a statement this afternoon, stating that because of difficulties in negotiations, the Metropolitan Opera management might bring a lockout upon the deadlocked talks with the management.

A lockout will mean interrupted productions. And, as the IATSE's public statement hints, the Met Opera productions are not watched only by in person audiences, but by audiences watching filmed or video presentations of the performances.

The New York Times reported yesterday that the dispute was taking "new urgency." In "Met Opera Prepares to Lock Out Workers" it reported that management sent letters to the company's orchestra, stagehands and other workers, warning them to get ready for a lockout if a contract agreement could not be reached. They said that the workers should get ready for a lockout on August 1. Contracts with 15 of the company's 16 unions expire on July 31. The musicians' union denounced management's letter, calling it cynical. Management said that they were open to counterproposals, as long as they save money. The Opera previously had strikes in 1969 and in 1980. The 1980 strike ran eleven weeks.

The Met has been having difficulties at the box office. Receipts have not been sufficient to pay costs, and it has heavily drawn from its endowment, the Times reported. The expansion of off-site theatrical presentations in film or video would reflect its need for new revenue sources.

Management also sent a letter from its human resources department, threatening to force workers to pay Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) payments in order to continue their health coverage. These payments would be $1,255.33 a month for individuals and would cost $2,793.10 a month for families.

The IATSE's press release reads:

The Union Behind Entertainment

For immediate release: July 23, 2014

Statement by Joe Hartnett,

Assistant Dept. Director Stagecraft for I.A.T.S.E.


Metropolitan Opera Management’s Threat to Lock out Performers and Backstage Employees

We want the show to go on. Our bargaining teams are very serious about hammering out an agreement with opera management. Several negotiating sessions have been scheduled over the next week. Management and their legal team have drawn red lines through our contracts, but seem to have very little understanding about what items cost or even how the opera functions backstage. This has slowed contract talks.

A lockout would be an opera tragedy, likely resulting in a lost season and a long-term loss of operagoers and subscribers for years to come. A lockout would not only leave theater seats empty in Lincoln Center -- it would result in movie theaters going dark around the globe where the Met is simulcast.

Most of all, a lockout would be an indication of management’s failure to manage productions and manage negotiations. We all should be working together to save the Met, not locking out artists and shuttering this opera house.

Joe Hartnett, I.A.T.S.E’s Assistant Department Director of Stagecraft, is coordinating negotiations for the six IA locals at the Metropolitan Opera.
The American Federation of Musicians, Local 802's statement on the potential lockout reads:
Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra musicians are dismayed that Peter Gelb has pursued a cynical strategy calculated to result in a lockout of his artists and craftspeople and imperil the upcoming Met Opera season. His callousness, combined with his attempt to cover up his failed management and lack of artistic vision that has resulted in declining audiences and plummeting ticket sales, jeopardizes the livelihoods of his employees and the many businesses in New York City's cultural sector and the Lincoln Center area that depend on the Metropolitan Opera for their incomes.

"For months, Gelb has purposely refused to provide essential financial information that would have allowed substantive, good-faith negotiations to proceed, instead making erroneous claims in the press in the run-up to his long-planned lockout.

"If the Met in fact is facing financial difficulties it is due to Peter Gelb's lavish overspending on productions that have been poorly received by critics and audiences. At the initial negotiating session scheduled for this Friday, July 25th, the musicians plan to propose ideas that would allow the Metropolitan Opera to realize over $20 Million in cost-savings and avoid draconian cuts to its artists. That Peter Gelb would announce the prospect of a lockout before the start of negotiations with the musicians, choristers, stagehands and other segments of the workforce is indicative of his disrespect for his audience, his artists and the City of New York.

"The loss to the City's economy as a result of a lockout will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars - first, the $327 million that the Met spends on salaries, sets, costumes and on many other vendors/services will be lost; on top of that, the losses to restaurants and hotels, especially those in the immediate vicinity of Lincoln Center, will be devastating given that the Met has 3,800 seats and its audience represents a high proportion of local restaurant and hotel patronage during the opera season.

"Peter Gelb should engage in good-faith negotiations with the intent of salvaging the upcoming season rather than moving to arbitrarily shut down the iconic and beloved Metropolitan Opera."
Let's hope that the management can get to good faith bargaining.