|By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press|
With just an hour to spare before general manager
"We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we've agreed to an extension," Gelb said.
The Met also announced it had reached new contract agreements with three of the 15 unions whose contracts expired at midnight: Local 32BJ, Local 210, and Local 30.
Local 32BJ represents ushers, ticket takers, cleaning staff, porters, security guards, and office service workers; Local 210 represents the call center; and Local 30 represents building engineers, the Met said.
A statement from the
A lockout would have disrupted the new opera season for the first time in three decades.
At issue are the Met's finances. Gelb has demanded that the unions accept salary cuts of about 17 percent, to cover a deficit of
But unions representing about 2,500 chorus singers, orchestra musicians, stagehands, carpenters and others say they'll lose as much as 30 percent of their income through additional pension cuts and higher health care costs.
Union chorus members earn a base pay of about
Gelb says the salaries of union members represent about two-thirds of company costs and that's where cuts should be made to balance shrinking ticket sales, a depleted endowment and rising operating costs.
The artists contend that their doubled income is due to Gelb's insistence on staging expensive new productions that got bad reviews but required a lot of overtime and technical challenges, such as Wagner's "Ring" cycle. They say they're bearing the brunt of his decisions.
"We're in at
She made contingency plans ahead of a possible lockout, sprucing up her resume for jobs in hospital administration.
Union members have frequently cited what they call the Met's "extreme waste," including the
With the lockout looming, one singer who took her child to the doctor was told the Met could cut off insurance on Friday.
"This is going to have fingers reaching far into the world," said another chorus soprano,
If the federal mediated talks don't succeed, the largest classical music organization in
Even if talks lead to a compromise, some spectators already have refrained from buying tickets, leery of performances that may not happen in the 3,800-seat theater.
A sleep-deprived Gelb, who has been the Met's general manager since
"But I'm on a mission," he said. "I took this job to keep the opera going, not to shut it down. Nobody wants a lockout. What I want is a deal."
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