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Metropolitan Opera Delays Lockout of Union Workers by One Week, Agrees to Independent Financial Analysis

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Aug 03, 2014 10:57 PM EDT

The Metropolitan Opera announced last night that it would delay its lockout of union workers by one week, while an independent financial analyst is brought in to assess the state of the Met's finances.

The current extension of union contracts was set to expire on Sunday at midnight. Last Thursday, the Met and its unions had agreed to a 72-hour extension of the original deadline, after the opera company and its two largest unions agreed to bring in a federal mediator.

So far, the Met has negotiated contract deals with only three of the 16 unions represented at the opera house. Talks with the other unions have been suspended temporarily during the period of the financial assessment, which will be conducted by Eugene Keilin.

Keilin, a founder of KPS Capital Partners, has worked in the public and private financial sectors in New York City for decades. He served as chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which was created to address New York's mid-1970s fiscal crisis.

The independent financial analysis is intended to provide a better picture of the extent of the Met's financial problems.

The Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, has declared that cuts are necessary in union employees' pay and benefits. He has cited a decrease in ticket sales for some recent productions, a shrinking endowment and rising costs.

The Met's unions have countered that management's excessive spending on new productions, some of which have required a great deal of overtime work, are to blame for the company's financial problems.

James J. Claffey, president of IATSE Local 1, which represents backstage workers at the Met who are skilled craftsmen, hailed the Met's decision to extend negotiations.

"This evening's announcement that the Metropolitan Opera's management has extended the lockout deadline by one week is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement released yesterday. "It is our intent to bargain in good faith and get a deal done. We have been bargaining with management since May and we will continue to do so without a mediator in days to come. We want to see the show go on."

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TagsMetropolitan Opera, lockout, union workers, independent financial analysis, Eugene Keilin, Peter Gelb, James J. Claffey, IATSE/Local One