Peter Gelb of Metropolitan Opera to Union Workers: Prepare for Lockout

By Louise Burton on Jul 24, 2014 08:09 PM EDT

Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera's general manager, warned that a lockout of union workers is imminent if the opera house's singers, orchestra members, stagehands and other employees cannot reach a labor agreement with management by next week.

Gelb wrote in a letter to union workers: "If we are not able to reach agreements by July 31 that would enable the Met to operate on an economically sound basis, please plan for the likelihood of a work stoppage beginning Aug. 1."

The contracts of 15 of the opera house's 16 unions are set to expire on July 31. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Gelb and representatives from the company's 3 main unions were not yet close to reaching an agreement.

Gelb's letter to employees also stated: "The Met cannot continue on its current economic path; we must find cost reductions." He has proposed a number of work-rule and benefit changes intended to reduce the company's labor costs by about 17%.

A statement from the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, representing the Met's orchestra musicians, took Gelb to task for "his attempt to cover up his failed management and lack of artistic vision that has resulted in declining audiences and plummeting ticket sales..."

The statement also said "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."

The Met's 2014-15 season is scheduled to begin on September 22. A lockout would halt rehearsals and other preparations for the season.

Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc blog posted a statement from Joe Hartnett of stage union I.A. T. S. E., who is coordinating negotiations for the six IA locals represented at the opera house.

According to Hartnett's statement, "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."

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TagsPeter Gelb, Metropolitan Opera, union workers, lockout, Union, Joe Hartnett, I. A. T. S. E., American Federation of Musicians, Norman Lebrecht

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