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New York Met postpones work stoppage by 72 hours

AFP

A construction site stands in front of the Metropolitan Opera on July 29, 2014 at Lincoln Center in New York CityA construction site stands in front of the Metropolitan Opera on July 29, 2014 at Lincoln Center in New York City

A construction site stands in front of the Metropolitan Opera on July 29, 2014 at Lincoln Center in New York CityA construction site stands in front of the Metropolitan Opera on July 29, 2014 at Lincoln Center in New York City

The Metropolitan Opera in New York, whose staff is locked in a bitter dispute with its managing director over proposed pay cuts, has extended labor negotiations by 72 hours, avoiding a Friday lockout.

Peter Gelb, whose push to slash salaries by 16 percent could now delay the start of the new season, had said employees would find doors locked and would be without pay beginning August 1.

But the Met extended contracts by 72 hours Thursday night and said that negotiations would continue in what is perhaps the institution's ugliest crisis in 30 years.

As the wealthiest opera company in the world and the biggest classical music organization in the United States, the Met dwarfs counterparts in Europe with a budget of nearly $327 million.

The pay dispute represents $200 million of the Met's budget.

While spending and fundraising have increased, ticket sales have declined steadily for the last four seasons and the Met says it must slash overheads now to avoid bankruptcy in the future.

Musicians' unions say poor ticket sales reflect bad Gelb productions, not declining interest in an elitist art form, and that slashing salaries is unfair.

Rather than cutting pay, they want Gelb to save $20 million by commissioning one or two fewer productions, staging fewer overtime operas and slashing wasteful rehearsal time.

At a rally in front of Lincoln Center Friday morning, Met musicians called for Gelb to "to continue negotiating in good faith and lift his threat of lockout."

Any potential work stoppage would be the first for the Met since 1980.

The three extra days were at the request of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which is leading discussions between parties.

Date created : 2014-08-02