Met Opera extends lockout deadline in labor dispute
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Talks between New York's Metropolitan Opera and its musicians and other unionized employees will resume this week after the opera company agreed to extend its deadline for a threatened lockout by another week, federal mediators said on Monday.
The contract negotiations, the most contentious at the Met since a lockout in 1980, had been suspended for a week while an independent analyst studied the Met's finances. Its previous labor contracts expired July 31.
The analyst's review is "nearing its completion," the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said in a statement on Monday, adding that the Met had agreed to extend its deadline to Sunday, Aug. 17.
The Met had agreed to postpone the July 31 deadline for 72 hours after a federal mediator joined talks with two of the largest unions, representing the orchestra and the chorus, at the 11th hour. It then extended the lockout deadline for "approximately one week" that same weekend.
The Met, which is the largest performing arts organization in the United States, has said it will lock out its orchestra, chorus, stagehands and other employees if new agreements cannot be reached. A lockout could derail the new opera season, which is set to open next month.
Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, has said its performers must accept a cut to the cost of their package of about 16 percent if the company is to survive waning interest in opera. Some of the unions have argued that Gelb should instead spend less money on expensive new productions.
The Met said in a statement it was "looking forward" to resuming talks. It reached new agreements with three of its smaller unions this month.
Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra, and the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the chorus, said in a joint statement they planned to "continue to bargain in good faith."
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Peter Galloway and Jim Loney)
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