Local musician unions reach new deal with Met Opera

Stephon Johnson | 9/20/2018, 11:47 a.m.
Two major musician unions, the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, AFM and the American Guild of Musical ...

Two major musician unions, the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, AFM and the American Guild of Musical Artists announced a new contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

The unions represent several categories of Met workers, including the associate and regular musicians of the MET Orchestra (represented by Local 802) and Chorus, soloists, stage managers, stage directors, staff performers, dancers and choreographers (represented by AGMA). In a joint statement, both unions expressed joy at a new agreement and cited their desire to help their constituents balance their work lives and personal lives.

“We, the musicians and musical artists of the Metropolitan Opera, believe in the future of opera and are deeply committed to collaborative efforts to guarantee the stability and artistic vibrancy of the Met,” read the joint statement. “Throughout this process, we have worked to achieve a favorable economic agreement, including compensation and benefits improvements, that support artistic excellence and help to ensure that musicians are able to live, work and raise a family in this great city.”

The statement concluded, “Demonstrating a continued willingness to invest in the Met’s long-term stability, we have agreed to add Sunday performances, which we recognize will reach new audiences, while also securing important protections and improvements that will safeguard artists’ work life balance.”

The new deal includes a 3 percent wage increase for 2018-19 and 2019-20, a 1 percent increase in the first six months of 2020-21 and a 1 percent increase in the second half of 2020-21, along with a slight pension enhancement. Employees also agreed to make contributions to their health insurance benefits program, which saves the Met money.

According to Local 802, AFM and AGMA officials, musicians will have a stronger voice at the Met as members of the continuing Efficiency Task Force newly created Artistic Advisory Committee, and a new Public Engagement Committee. The committees are tasked with exploring new ways to interact with fans, increase revenue and modernize the Met.

“The Metropolitan Opera’s product is the talent of its skilled musicians and musical artists, who consistently deliver excellence with every performance, both on stage and in the pit,” said Tino Gagliardi, president, Local 802, AFM, in a statement. “This summer, the committees negotiated a favorable economic package that will allow the Met to maintain its high standard of musical excellence, balancing compromises made to ensure the institution’s long term viability with protections for hard-working musicians.”

As part of the new deal, the Met will shift performances from February (a time where fewer people normally go to the opera) to later in the spring, which will lead seasons to end in June instead of May. Also, Sunday matinee performances will start in the fall of 2019, and in 2020, there’ll be a restructuring of the performance schedule to allow a mid-winter break.

Leonard Egert, national executive director of AGMA, said the new deal was the result of working through a season that many people use for leisure and vacation.

“Our respective negotiating committees worked tirelessly throughout the summer to ensure that all artists in every category were heard and achieved improvements in benefits and working conditions,” stated Egert. “Recognizing that a safe and supportive environment is imperative to rehearsing and performing at the highest level, we created an innovative process for the unions’ direct involvement and input into preventing sexual harassment and discrimination which have no place at the Met.”

Jessica Phillips, clarinetist and chair of the MET Orchestra Committee, is ready to get back to work.

“Every member of the MET Orchestra has devoted their lives to their craft, their artistry and their musicianship,” said Phillips in a statement. “This agreement exemplifies that commitment by ensuring that the Metropolitan Opera we all know and love is well positioned to thrive artistically for years to come.”