NEW YORK, NY – Members of Local 751 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IA), representing box office employees – treasurers and ticket sellers – at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, will begin contract talks today with opera management.
The Met wants to cut wages for all of its unionized employees, including treasurers and ticket sellers, the workers who have the most direct contact with opera patrons and are on the front lines of the Met’s reputation with its customers. Members of Local 751 and other Met unions, while willing to consider some belt-tightening, believe management’s spending is out of control.
Earlier this week, the Met’s 990 tax-reporting forms were released for 2012 (the most recent year available) showing that the opera company’s general manager, Peter Gelb received a 26 percent increase in pay and benefits. Gelb received $1.8 million that year in compensation according to the 990s. In a statement to the New York Times, the Opera’s spokesman Peter Clark said that Gelb has since taken a 10 percent cut in pay.
Joe Hartnett, the IA’s Assistant Director of Stagecraft, termed this “a rebate on an overcharge,” and noted that Gelb used a similar maneuver during the last round of labor negotiations in 2009. “Management gives themselves a 26% raise and then takes a 10% pay cut right before negotiations,” said Hartnett. “Maybe they’re forgetting we work in the theatre – we’re not fooled by that kind of sleight of hand.”
IATSE Local 751 is one of six IATSE local unions currently in negotiations with Met management.
“Our members are absolutely committed to taking care of our customers, because they are the foundation of this great institution,” said Lawrence Paone, President of Local 751. “We know we have to work with management to find solutions. But all we’ve heard so far is one-sided demands for concessions from our workforce. We’re not the ones who have implemented complex discount schemes that confuse customers and depress revenues.”
“We’re confident these negotiations can be successful,” said Paone, “so long as everyone keeps an open mind and there is give-and-take across the bargaining table.”