NEW YORK, NY – Members of Local 794 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), representing broadcast and production technicians at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, will begin contract talks today with opera management. Members of Local 794 are on the front lines of the Met’s effort to expand its audience by broadcasting opera performances to 1,900 theatres around the globe.
Local 794 members are last in a group of six IATSE locals representing Met employees to enter negotiations. IATSE Local 1, representing carpenters, stage hands, lighting, set, props and set construction workers; IATSE Local 829, representing scenic artists and designers; IATSE Local 751, representing treasurers and ticket sellers; IATSE Local 764, representing costume shop employees; and Local 798, representing makeup and hair stylists all began talks with management in June.
“Local 794 members are responsible for the technical wizardry which brings ‘Live at the Met’ performances to audiences around the globe,” said Joe Hartnett, assistant director of IATSE’s Stagecraft Department. “They’re proud of their increasing contribution to growing the Met’s audience – and puzzled that their reward is a demand for deep wage and benefit cuts.”
Prior to and during negotiations, Met general manager Peter Gelb has publicly campaigned for pay and benefit reductions from all of the opera’s unionized employees.
“We don’t see how you save the Met by cutting the onstage and backstage talent responsible for presenting the greatest operas in the world,” said Hartnett, “while avoiding all discussion of bloated management salaries, repeated cost overruns, failed productions and poorly executed marketing and sales strategies.”
The Met’s 990 tax-reporting, released in June, show that Gelb received a 26 percent increase in pay and benefits in 2012, taking home $1.8 million in compensation. The Met now says Gelb has since taken a 10 percent cut in pay.
That’s “a rebate on an overcharge,” said Hartnett. “If you take a big bowl of gravy and ladle out a little spoonful, you’ve still got a big bowl of gravy.”