Metropolitan Opera to Lockout Stagehands

By Francisco Salazar

The Metropolitan Opera has announced it will institute a lockout of its Local One–represented employees.

The employees affected by this lockout will be stagehands and it will be effective at midnight.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Opera said, “even though we’ve had a number of bargaining sessions over the last four months since our contract with Local One expired, and have repeatedly offered to meet with greater frequency, we have not made any meaningful progress toward a new agreement with necessary cost reductions and no-strike protections.”

The company added, “the loss of months of the 2019–20 Met season and the entire 2020–21 season because of the health crisis has compounded existing financial difficulties for the Met, as it has for other arts organizations. Like most of those other organizations, the Met must achieve an economic reset. As two-thirds of our annual costs are pay and benefits for our unionized employees, such a reset must include cost reductions in these areas.”

“As part of a multi-year agreement, we are seeking cost savings of 30% of the payroll for employees represented by Local One, while committing to restore half of those reductions when the Met’s box office and core donations reach certain pre-pandemic benchmarks. We also are offering to provide pay of up to $1,500 per week to all Local One furloughed full-time employees from the day a deal is reached through next summer, to provide assistance and support during this time, which we know is so extraordinarily financially challenging.”

The Met recognized that 30 percent reductions are difficult but noted that it is to ensure the survival of the company. According to research conducted by the company, the city will not return to pre-pandemic numbers until 2025. 

General Manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times that only a few dozen stagehands have been at work but more were set to return later this month to begin constructing the sets for the operas planned for the 2021-22 season.

Gelb also noted that reductions in the company’s expenses should not be sought through reducing live presentations because it is the key to keeping donors on board.