Met latest: Musicians say drop the lockout threat and we’ll go to mediation

Met latest: Musicians say drop the lockout threat and we’ll go to mediation


norman lebrecht

July 31, 2014

press release, just in:

Met Musicians: Met Opera GM Peter Gelb Should Back Off Devastating Lockout Threats as Part of Federal Mediation Offer

Gelb should extend the current contract and continue talks without depriving musicians and families of income and health care and imperiling the upcoming Met Opera season

New York, NY–Thursday, July 31, 2014During Met Opera negotiations on Wednesday, July 30, Met Opera management offered the option of bringing in a federal mediator to work toward an agreement. This, after months of stalling tactics on their part had pushed negotiations to just days before the current contract deadline. Last week, before negotiations even began, Gelb sent a letter to employees telling them to prepare to be locked out and receive no pay or benefits after their contract expires on August 1.

Said Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802 president Tino Gagliardi, “Management proposed federal mediation to Local 802. We are considering it, and we believe it would have a much greater chance of success if Peter Gelb would back off his lockout threats and extend the current contract.”

The musicians had hoped to pursue good-faith negotiations with opera management. Unfortunately, Gelb has pursued a calculated strategy to lock out his artists and craftspeople and put the upcoming Met Opera season in jeopardy. For months Gelb has purposely refused to provide essential financial information that would have allowed substantive, good faith negotiations to proceed, instead making erroneous claims in the press in the run-up to a long-planned lockout.

While labor costs have remained flat during Gelb’s tenure, the MET Opera budget has increased by nearly 50% ($105 Million), in large part due to overspending on unpopular new productions, poor scheduling, ineffective marketing and management waste. The MET Orchestra, which has won three consecutive Grammys and is considered the best opera orchestra in the world, is absolutely in favor of new and artistically daring productions. They believe that with well-chosen productions and expert management, the Met can live within its budget and present innovative grand opera while also offering competitive compensation to attract and retain the best musicians in the world.

The musicians have produced an extensive, detailed report on the Met Opera under the management and artistic direction of Peter Gelb. The report also notes the severe impacts of the cuts Gelb seeks, and concludes with the musicians’ suggestions for $37.8 Million in cost-savings for the Met Opera, including substantial savings to its labor budget. Gelb has dismissed all of the musicians’ proposals, including givebacks and concessions, seemingly in favor of a lockout.



  • Claudia Menlo says:

    While labor costs have remained flat during Gelb’s tenure

    False, as has been shown in comments elsewhere on this site. The Met’s labor costs have in fact risen 40% since 2006.

  • Save The MET says:

    Well golly gee and tickle me pink. Between overtime costs during Mr. Gelb’s tenure for rehearsals, the programming of long productions, the cost of the manpower to create and then sending the entire MET scenic shop to Canada for months to remake the set, because the first Ring Cycle sets were botched. One can correctly assume much of the labor cost increases lie squarely at the feet of Mr. Gelb.

    Fortunately, common sense should prevail with Federal mediators. One would hope they also send forensic accountants in to review the Metropolitan Opera books, as I for one believe the books there contain many secrets Mr. Gelb does not want revealed.

    • Claudia Menlo says:

      So you admit, then, that calling labor costs “flat” is untrue?

      • Contrarian says:

        Labor cost is the same, adjusted for inflation and such. Is the increase in workload and overtime pay that makes the cost go up. If Mr Gelb hadn’t demanded so much overtime the cost would have been the same

        • Claudia Menlo says:

          If a rise in labor costs by 40% is “flat” then I don’t see why you can’t call a 50% rise in the Met’s budget “flat.”

          I mean, what with inflation “and such.”

          The press release didn’t say “labor costs have risen, but only because of unreasonable demands for overtime.” The press release said “labor costs have remained flat.” That is untrue.

          • Contrarian says:

            Inflation and cost of living are the “such,”
            Let me try to explain it to you again:
            If the price of gasoline is the same as four years ago, but you use more of it because you bought a sport car and drive it a lot, you can’t blame your deficits on the gasoline being more “expensive”.
            Too simple?

  • Jaura says:

    Claudia, you are saying ALL labor costs have risen 40%? This is a falsehood. It may be true for some departments but most certainly not for the orchestra.

    • Claudia Menlo says:

      That is “all labor costs.” The press release refers to “labor costs,” not “orchestra compensation.” It would be perhaps easier to judge exactly how much costs for the orchestra have risen if the orchestra would provide any sort of useful figures. Instead, all their statistics are based on “base pay,” which is at best confusing, because nobody in the orchestra actually works for “base pay.” Overtime is written into the contract.

      Union labor costs at the Met in 2006 were $153.9 million; in 2013 they were $214.5 million. That is an increase of almost exactly 40%.

    • william osborne says:

      In it’s response to the orchestra’s recent statement, management claims that pay for the orchestra has risen 25% in the last 5 years. Is that true?

      How much was due to overtime that could be eliminated through better planning? Can anyone provide documented numbers?

  • Dave T says:

    Would one of the many union members on this board please help me to understand something. If “base pay” were to remain unchanged and if all overtime were to be eliminated– somehow. This would help the organization’s budget. This would also, presumably, alleviate the mismanagement complaint against Gelb.
    Of course, overall pay to union members would go down– substantially. Would the unions accept this?

    • Claudia Menlo says:

      It should be noted in this context that there is no proposal to lower the Met orchestra’s base pay.

  • Penny S says:

    I’d have to diasgree with you there.

    If labor costs adjusted for inflation remains flat over a 4-year period and assuming that the inflation rate is positive, then what this means is that while you spent more money on labor today, the real value of the money you spent (how much labor you can buy with it) is the same as 4 years ago because either labor has gotten more expensive (basic pay and benefits) and/or you bought more labor (overtime). 

    In the Met’s case it’s both. The employees did get basic pay raises, healthcare and pension contributions did increase, and they did work more hours. No way to tell from the figures presented how increases in costs were distributed among the three. Both sides seem to agree that it’s not the basic pay increases that’s exploded the budget. So benefits and overtime – the core issues of the dispute. 

  • Penny S says:

    I should add that the musicians don’t claim that labor costs from 2005-2013 remained flat. It increased by $16M in 2013 dollars. A fuzzy figure. The nominal value (unadjusted for inflation) would have been more to the point since proposed cost savings are meant to cover nominal increases in the budget.