Negotiations open on Tues. morning, May 13, with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 1 and the management of the Metropolitan Opera. These contract talks are significant because the Met has been operating at a deficit in recent years due to an ambitious plan by management to expand the number of productions. The work of IA members also has changed as a surge in new opera productions, combined with different requirements for HD simulcasts to 1,900 movie theaters, has changed the way operas are staged. For example, sets, props, makeup, lighting and costumes that were previously designed to be seen 200 feet away now need to be designed for the movie screen and HD cameras.
Despite the increased workload, labor costs for IA members have only risen by 2.91 percent annually since 2007. Meanwhile the Met’s budget has grown from $190 million to $311 million, a 60 percent increase.
“The Met’s management, even before contract talks have begun, has tried to place the Met’s financial problems on the shoulders of the opera company’s workers and performers,“ said Joe Hartnett, IA’s Assistant Director of Stagecraft. “This is misguided. We don’t have a labor-cost problem at the Met — we have a management-spending problem. We can save the Met — we all want to see the show go on — but it means all of us working together to bring the budget in line.”
Local 1 President James J. Claffey, Jr. added, “Everyone needs to play their part to get the Met on better financial footing. Management may need to scale back some of their plans or cut up some of their credit cards. Local 1 and the Met’s other unions need to see a real business plan from the Met’s front office – not sledgehammer economics.”
Local 1 negotiations begin Tues., May 13, 11 am, at Lincoln Center. Contract talks for other IA-represented workers are scheduled for June or later this year.