Cher Public

All fall down

parterre box has obtained a memo sent to artists’ managers in which AGMA Executive Director Alan Gordon warns singers contracted to sing at the Met in the 2014-2105 season that due to unpromising developments in upcoming labor negotiations the company may be dark for part or all of the season, and that “it would be prudent for our principal singer members who have future contracts at the Met, and their agents, to… explore other sources of 2014-2015 employment.”

The complete memo follows the jump.

To: Agents of Singers Contracted to Appear At The Met and AGMA-represented artists with future Met contracts.

From: Alan Gordon, Executive Director, AGMA

Re: Met dark for some or all of 2014-2015 season?

Unfortunately, we have to advise you that the situation with regard to the renegotiation of the Met collective bargaining agreement continues to worsen, creating the distinct possibility that the Met will be dark for some or all of 2014-2015 season.

When we last wrote to you about the July 31 expiration of the current contract, we said: Peter Gelb’s removal of Joseph Volpe from the renegotiation of the Met’s contracts, intending instead to negotiate the contracts himself, is a clear and unmistakable forewarning that Gelb wants to restructure labor relations at the Met. From every indication we have, the Met plans to attack our decades-old contract protections and seek an across-the-board 10% or 15% reduction in compensation and fees, along with other deep contract concessions.

Now that we have received the Met’s actual contract proposals, we see that we had underestimated the extent of Peter Gelb’s intention to end decades of harmonious labor relations between the Met and its employees and to destroy the AGMA collective bargaining agreement covering you, the Met chorus, the dancers and the production staff, as well as his concomitant attack on the other union contracts covering the orchestra and stagehands.

From our initial analysis of the Met’s proposals, they reflect a what would be an out-of-pocket loss in compensation of between 22% and 39%, including complete elimination of Health Plan B, and changes in working conditions that would make you work longer, for less money. The changes proposed for Met Plan and Weekly solo singers are even more destructive in scope.

Gelb blames the Met’s fiscal problems on labor costs – you – but, in reality it’s more likely that his failing business model and unregulated waste have led to the Met’s problems. When Peter arrived at the Met, he inherited from Joe Volpe a balanced budget of $209 million. Last year, his productions had swollen the budget to $311 million, with a $2.8 million deficit, and a shrinking audience.

The conclusion seems inescapable that if the 3 major unions do not accept his attempt to “save” the Met on the backs of its performers, (which they obviously can not accept and will not accept) the Met fully intends to lock out all of its artists, instrumentalists and stage hands after the contracts terminate.

Consequently, if Peter Gelb continues to follow this course of action, and locks out employees, the Met will be dark for some or all of 2014-2015 season. Hopefully, he will come to realize that his approach to fixing the Met’s finances is untenable.

However, we have cautioned our Met staff employees members to prepare for an extended period of time with no Met income. As we previously suggested, we think it would be prudent for our principal singer members who have future contracts at the Met, and their agents, to likewise explore other sources of 2014-2015 employment.

Obviously, we and the other unions accept that the Met needs help to stay viable and will do everything possible to protect our respective members and their contracts, and we will try refocus Peter Gelb on the actual causes of his financial problems…and how to fix them in a global sense, and not through an attack on its performing artists.

Actual across-the-table will not begin until May or June, and we’ll keep you advised as things progress.