The Met demanded 30% pay cut, and settled for 3%

The Met demanded 30% pay cut, and settled for 3%


norman lebrecht

July 04, 2021

The 300 stagehands whom Peter Gelb locked out last year have agreed to return to work under a deal struck over the July 4 weekend.

Gelb was demanding a 30 percent pay cut. Initial leaks say he has settled for 3 percent.

If this is the outcome, it is a massive capitulation by the general manager and a virtual victory for the IATSE union. Neither side has commented.

The fact of its leaking over a holiday weekend suggest the Met is, once again, trying to bury bad news. The gulf between its posturing and its climbdown is extra-planetary.

Now it’s just the orchestra that needs to settle.

A reopening in September is back on the cards.



  • Rupert Kinsella says:

    How will Gelb possibly achieve more than 3% for the orchestra after this agreement.

    • Laughing at Libs! says:

      Gelb is using his “white privilege” the same way Biden has quite brilliantly using dumb Democrats to put them in power hence proving CRT via the NYT.

      It’s equally amusing to read these articles on white-only blog sites run by whites.

  • byrone says:

    too bad it’s trying to reopen with that non opera of blanchard’s. let’s see how many paying seats they will fill with that dud.

  • justin says:

    If Gelb was seeking to cut pay by using Covid as an excuse, in effect to re-negotiate a done deal, than ANY % is better than what he could’ve ever gotten otherwise.

    The rest is just bargaining tactics, if you want 3%, you ask for 30%…

    On the other hand, if 30% is a REAL number, and anything less than that would cause the Met to go bankrupt, then 3% is a short term pyrrhic victory for the union until everyone gets laid off in the long term.

    • musician says:

      or clearly he has been lying the entire time.

    • Indeed says:

      Pretty spot-on, Justin.

      The one difference with the stagehands is that the Met hasn’t had to pay them anything in seven months. That’s an additional offset. Call that a 58% pay cut, divided by the length of the new contract, so if three years, they already saved 19%/year.

      The NYT coverage notes that in addition to the 3% cut, the Chorus is moving from the Met’s medical insurance plan to the Union’s and that the size of the chorus was reduced. If there are comparable changes in the IATSE contract, there will be additional savings. (Maybe the infamous “work rules” will have been addressed?)

      To “musician’s” comment… lying? Have you seriously not observed labor negotiations that have taken place in public in your whole life? When the unions were railing against “draconian” proposed cuts that were completely in line with those taken at other classical music organizations around the country, were they “lying?”

      People should recognize a labor negotiation for what it is, rather than romanticizing it, simply because many of those involved are “artists.”

  • E Rand says:

    the stagehands union has actual power. the musicians? ha.

  • John Russell says:

    The Metropolitan Opera will ALWAYS exist. There are too many reasons it is essential: artistic, iconic, political, societal, historical. It may metamorphose slightly, but it will not die. Many persons, institutions, and the people demand it, even as “elitist” as it seems to be perceived.
    (If only NYCOpera had had that kind of foundational reason for being, we would still be in possession of another great institution of opera and, importantly, operetta—as well as an American Opera tradition and history of composition (but well-guided and tended by brilliant intendants, conductors, music staff. But, a key element was missing—the VERY wealthy perpetual patron, whose interests transcended the “merely” artistic. And so…we sadly lost her to shallow market trends and lack of commitment from irresponsible board members. A GREAT LOSS to American composers and NYC culture.)

    • pastore says:

      Nothing lasts forever. And, sadly, the Met and all classical music has become increasingly less essential in today’s America.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      If any American musical institution will no longer ‘exist’, and will need to be reformed in a radical way, it’s the Met. Grand opera is vaguely related to music, and The Met is an atrocious building for music. The radio broadcasts sound awful (for the most part), and the building isn’t the least bit conducive for attractive sounding vocalizing. This problem is so pronounced, that N.L., Slipped Disc and others have become obsessed with the orchestra. Go figure! I heard Gotterdaemerung from about half-way back, and the entire performance sounded as though a giant mute had been stuck into everything. It also looks incredibly tacky. That’s my take on the situation.

      • BRUCEB says:

        This lines up with my experience. I tune in to the broadcasts now and then — well, I used to anyway — but the singers, even ones I know and love, are always painful to listen to. (The orchestra sounds great, when you can hear them.)

        I’ve only been able to go to the actual Met Opera House once, many years ago, but I still remember how quiet everything was. (We sat about 2/3 toward the back on the main level.) Granted, it was Handel, not Wagner, but for Eva Podlés’ biggest moments to come across as mezzo-piano was… well, it just seemed wrong. (The balance itself was fine, because the orchestra was quiet as well. It wasn’t a case of the singer being drowned out by the orchestra; it was a case of the sound getting lost in the hall.)

        As far as the appearance of the place goes, I’m indifferent. It could look even more like a convention center auditorium and I wouldn’t mind, if the acoustics were good.

  • drummerman says:

    The stagehands will still make huge salaries – 3% means nothing.

  • MBZ says:

    Average Met stagehands wage in 2019 was $260,000 per year….maybe they should look at other Houses around the world and see that they may be on a good wicket??

  • Monsoon says:

    How about a little perspective here. Gelb asked for 30 percent more than a year ago when the Met was indefinitely closed and there was no vaccine. The union may be claiming victory, but I’m sure the feeling among the members who went more than a year without pay is hardly jubilation.

    And as I’ve asked many times, how exactly was Gelb’s deal worse than what musicians at every major U.S. orchestra accepted? They all readily accepted pay cuts ranging from 25% to 35% which are locked in for the next several years.

    • Indeed says:


      The unions will say “well those cuts aren’t permanent” as if anything is “permanent” in a three-year labor contract.

      As I said above, if the stagehands are going on a union health plan, seeing their numbers reduced (as is the chorus), and seeing changes to the work rules that seem to challenge management, the effective reduction will be more than 3%.

      The unions were begging for NYT coverage and, when it did, response from the general public via the comments was incredulous – both to employee compensation and to the seeming obliviousness from union members that the Met being closed for a year wouldn’t lead to pay and cost cuts – and wouldn’t be the case in any other business or organization.

  • Couperin says:

    Heckuva job, Gelby!