It took some time, but Met Orchestra musicians and the Metropolitan Opera have made sweet music together.
At around 6 a.m. this past Monday, a new agreement between the two parties stopped a lockout that could’ve damaged and derailed the Met’s upcoming season of shows. The musicians who make up the Met Orchestra and the unions that represent them, Associated Musicians of Greater New York and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, announced the ratification of their labor agreement as well.
According to members of the unions’ joint negotiating committee, the new agreement calls for a 3.5 percent pay cut for singers. and orchestra members to begin immediately, followed by yet another 3.5 percent pay cut in six months. Union members wouldn’t see a pay increase until six months into the fourth year of the deal, where their pay would increase by 3 percent.
But it’s not just union members being forced to tighten up. “Equality of sacrifice” was a buzzword in the deal. That calls for management to cut $11.25 million from its expenses outside of the collective bargaining agreements. It also stipulates that Eugene Keilin, the independent financial analyst hired to help with negotiations, will stay on and be paid jointly by the Met and the two unions representing the musicians.
“Throughout this process, the musicians continued to believe that opera is alive and well here in New York City, and that with proper fiscal management, it is possible for the Met to present innovative grand opera and continue to attract and retain the top musicians in the world,” said Local 802 AFM President Tino Gagliardi in a statement. “We are proud to have helped craft an agreement that is unprecedented among arts institutions, one that allows for financial oversight and includes a mechanism for artists to collaborate in finding meaningful efficiencies.
Under the terms of the new agreement, workers will preserve their existing health care and pension benefits, even though all parties have agreed to revisit those issues in the fall to see if they could make changes that both sides agree with.
“No one is more concerned with the Met’s future than the musicians, choristers and craftspeople whose livelihoods depend on the Met’s survival and who are responsible for every aspect of the audience member’s experience when they come to the Met,” said Jessica Phillips Rieske, clarinetist and chair of the Met Orchestra committee, in a statement. “We are thrilled that our season has been saved and that we can get back to doing what we do best, which is to make the music come alive. We are dedicated to working collaboratively with management to find ways to achieve efficiencies that will result in real cost savings for the Met while maintaining the artistic excellence that we strive for and which our fans have come to expect from us.
“We are so grateful to everyone who supported us in our efforts these past months, and we look forward to a rewarding season,” continued Rieske.