Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, picket a little more

This just landed in La Cieca’s inbox:  “We regret to inform you that Lyric Opera of Chicago season is in peril. Yesterday Lyric advised us that if we do not accept their one year demand for a two week reduction of employment, an elimination of wage parity with the orchestra, and an additional 5.2 % reduction in salaries that they will lock out AGMA members on Monday, August 22, 2011.”

The missive continues:

AGMA has worked hard to identify savings and has already made significant concessions, but we are unable to agree to a 11.25% reduction in wages nor Lyric’s suggestions that the Regular Chorus and Production Staff shift the burden of the concessions to Dancers, Supplementary Chorus, Actors and Principals who have already suffered from Lyric’s cuts to the artistic product. Lyric is seeking $500,000 in additional savings from their approved budget which already included the two weeks employment.

Lyric’s threats put the free concert for Chicago at Millennium Park in jeopardy, and possibly the entire season. General Director William Mason has been absent from all negotiations. Anthony Freud, the incoming General Director, has refused to participate in across-the-table negotiations with your bargaining committee. AGMA’s concern from the beginning of negotiations has been that Lyric and the Board do not have a plan to address the ten year, 27% decrease in ticket sales except to cut the artistic product through significant decreases in the number of Choristers, engaging fewer star performers, shifting comprimario roles from seasoned professionals to young artists, elimination of rehearsals with orchestra, and elimination of Actors and Dancers from opera.

Lyric is rudderless, with Board Chair Kenneth Pigott leading the company into oblivion.

AGMA, its staff and its attorneys and your negotiating committee will do everything possible to protect your hard won contractual protections. But Lyric Opera’s management must come to understand that you are the Opera’s product and that you don’t save a company by skimping on its product.

Regrettably, if Lyric decides to proceed with its announced plan to lock out performers, Lyric is going to lose the Millennium Park concert, and possibly its fall season. You need to prepare for that possibility and be prepared to close down Lyric. You will be expected to picket and to resist every encroachment upon your hard won contractual protections.