Cher Public

Crunching the numbers

Yes, it appears the Met’s labor crisis has been averted by successful completion of contract negotiations between the Met and AGMA (pictured, left to right.) Now that we are all breathing again, La Cieca thought the cher public might be interested in seeing the exact terms of at least one of the pacts. Your doyenne has come into possession a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement about which she is sure the keen legal minds of the parterriani will form their own opinions.

  • operaassport

    Thank you for providing the actual document, that’s very helpful.

    Two comments. You’ve got to love B2. The union leadership takes care of themselves first, of course. This reminded me of divorce agreements where the parties’ attorneys agree on their spoils before anyone else sees a cent.

    It seems the unions gave up very little with minimal compensation changes and no changes to the work rules or benefits provisions which were the two places that most needed reform. I don’t see that the MET got much out of this in relation to their goals.

    You have to tip your hat to the AGMA team who got out of this with little pain. What that means for the future solubility of the MET is anyone’s guess but it’s hard to see how this will help.

    Yes, the season goes on for which everyone is grateful but I wonder … At what cost?

    • RDaggle

      Yes, the ‘future solubility’ of the Met will be a big issue, what with the polar icecaps melting and the oceans rising.

    • I agree. AGMA came out better than Met management. The savings will help for sure, but not enough to take the pressure off the annual fundraising needs to allow the company to focus significantly on endowment. What will probably happen is that the Met will have to do just as much annual fundraising a year as before (assuming tickets sales don’t decline further) with the difference being that there won’t be deficits over the next few seasons. Or the company might bring in less in annual fundraising, resulting in the same annual deficits but allowing the Met to focus more on the endowment (which is better in the long term).

      Looking at it optimistically, the savings that have been found might be enough to convince Board members and other major donors to make significant contributions to the endowment.

      • I’d be pretty surprised if Peter Gelb agreed to any of this without first checking with his board.

        • Did I suggest otherwise?

          • No, I think that’s what you meant in saying “Looking at it optimistically, the savings that have been found might be enough to convince Board members and other major donors to make significant contributions to the endowment.” I’d just remove the word “might” from your sentence.

            • Sorry, I understand now. Board members have to be viewed in two ways — as a director of the Board and as a major donor. Even if Gelb has the backing the of the Board in terms of where to draw the line in the sand, each Board member will make his/her own decision about major giving (and not all Board members give more than the minimum amount required).

        • operaassport

          You’d be wrong because that’s not how it works. A board sets the mandate and Gelb acts on it. The board doesn’t micromanage in the way you described. Gelb is paid a lot of money; he’s not expected to get permission to go to the John. It’s his job.

          • operaassport

            That was meant for union spokesman Dabrowski.

            • bluecabochon

              You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

      • Bob

        Leaving aside the ideological battles which will get us nowhere, the encouraging thing about this settlement is the fiscal monitor and the provisions for joint discussion of the fringe benefits issue and the whole question of how to make the most money selling seats, a question which has its conflicting answers also. I would like to see a record of sales per performance over the last ten years. This would allow evaluation of the effectiveness of the varying strategies to sell tickets. The focus on the bottom line by everyone including the unions has got to help. We are all in this together as opera lovers, and we have to choose the least painful way forward. I,for one, dread amplification, but it may be necessary to attract some paying customers

    • Um, operaassport, you do realize that “bargaining unit” is not the same as “bargaining committee,” right? This statement of yours is therefore false:

      “You’ve got to love B2. The union leadership takes care of themselves first, of course. This reminded me of divorce agreements where the parties’ attorneys agree on their spoils before anyone else sees a cent.”

      That’s not what that says at all. Here is the text of B2:

      “Performance Bonus. The Met shall pay $250,000 to the AGMA bargaining unit members, with AGMA determining the allocation of such bonus payments. The payments shall be made in two installments: $125,000 as soon as practicable after the first set of wage reductions take effect, $125,000 six months after today.”

      Everyone in a job at the Met covered by the AGMA contract is a part of the bargaining unit — it’s not just the “union leadership.”

      It is not unheard of for negotiating committees to be paid on a “lost-time” basis, by the way, but that’s not what this clause is.

      • operaassport

        Nice try from our resident union spokesman but when “AGMA” decides how it is going to be spent we all know exactly what that means.

        • And as we all know, you, as supreme leader of the world do get to speak without any evidence and out of bias and we are expected to take you and face value and not challenge you, right? Glad we could get that clear.

    • messa di voce

      Well, like they say, you can’t turn an ocean liner on a dime. That the unions gave in to what are still pretty significant cuts is a HUGE change from past negotiations, and sets a new precedent going forward.

      • operaassport

        “Pretty significant cuts.” You must be reading a different document than me. I see tiny cuts which without a change in work rules won’t end up as cuts at all.

        The unions were going to have to accept cuts with a mediator involved and it looks like these were the barest minimum.

        Why do I think we have longer intermissions and more overtime to look forward to?

        • olliedawg

          I have to agree with operaasport’s POV. The terms described take a small percentage from the union members’ base pay, which was necessary and not insignificant in the scheme of things, but keeps much of the crazy-making (and expensive) special-pay structure in place. Perhaps the thought of holding out and holding up the season put the fear of Goddess into the Board members? On the whole, though, this is a step in the right direction for setting the Met’s house back in order. Think of it as more evolutionary than revolutionary.

          • Agreed. It would have been much better if they had addressed the pay structure and the pensions and left the base pay alone. But it is more expedient from a PR perspective for the unions to be able to say that they’ve taken a pay cut. The general public will sympathise more with the concept of a pay cut than with cuts to pensions or benefits, or overtime structure.

            • It would have been better if the galloping increases in union compensation had been addressed five years ago, or 10, or 20 or 30. Gelb is tasked with cleaning up more than a generation of cowardly, sloppy labor relations. Since he can’t fix 30 years of bad contracts overnight, by all means let’s call him a failure and call for his ouster.

            • No doubt, La Cieca. At least Gelb is addressing the situation.

            • olliedawg

              Agreed, kashania, nuance doesn’t ever seem to play all that well “out there”, although overtime is a subject that many people can probably relate to. How you feel about its use in determining total pay (or retirement benefits, which is when it is too often abused) depends on which side of the table you sit. But, there are other rules and regs in the union contracts that boggle the mind. I just don’t know how anyone can keep an eye on any of it. Byzantine is one word that springs to mind, but it probably doesn’t even remotely capture the looniness.

              And, my dear La C, couldn’t agree with you more — trying to correct a situation where precedent has been set, and for so many years, amounts to a Promethean task. Considering how many hits Mr. Gelb took during these negotiations, many way way out of proportion and below the belt, I applaud his willingness to stand and take it in order to achieve these reductions. What do you, and my fellow Parterrians, believe will be the residue from all the name-calling and mud-flinging in the months to come? Will Gelb be able to keep his gig?

            • olliedawg: What I meant is that if people hear that you’ve had your pay cut, they feel sorry for you. If they hear that your generous pension plan (which is likely much better than their own) has been reduced slightly, their response will likely be “Cry me a river”.

            • olliedawg: Not to suggest that you didn’t catch my meaning. I just felt like emphasising.

            • messa di voce

              Won’t cuts in salaries now have some effect on the Met’s pension obligations down the road, that is payouts usually have some relationship to salary?

            • carla

              Here are those “galloping increases in union compensation” you refer to.


            • carla
            • Carla, take a look at page 58 of that presentation. The Met orchestra’s base salary increased 30% more than the cost of living between 1980 and 2005.

              Also, see this chart prepared by the New York Times. The Met spends on compensation 250% what they spent in 1980.

            • incurvar la schiena

              La Cieca, since we’re too far down in the weeds to reply directly, I have to reply here, but about

              Carla, take a look at page 58 of that presentation. The Met orchestra’s base salary increased 30% more than the cost of living between 1980 and 2005.

              Really? Which cost of living are you looking at? Fayetteville, Arkansas’ or New York’s? The NY-NJ-CT-PA Consumer Price Index has risen over 300% since 1980, while base salary for the orchestra has risen 125%. Needless to say, if we were to have a CPI of just Manhattan, I’m relatively certain it would be a lot higher than 300%.

            • incurvar la schiena

              Sorry, I missed that the chart is already adjusted for NYC inflation, but my point about Manhattan vs. overall NYC inflation stands.

          • operaassport

            I agree, hopefully, with Ollie :)

            • operaassport

              There is absolutely no reason to call for Gelb’s ouster.

            • bluecabochon

              The Oracle HAS SPOKEN.

            • Daniel

              Yeah, so reassuring to know the resident John Bircher hath bestowed upon us His verdict.

            • Krunoslav

              Bet the Lunch Companion embraces the label “John Bircher” as firmly as he rejected ‘troll’.

          • Your confusion is forgivable since confusing people was the whole purpose of that document: they go back and forth between real dollars and dollars adjusted for inflation, and between total compensation and base salary.

            Adjusted for inflation, the Met orchestra is now making 130% (for playing four performances) what they were making for playing five performances in 1980. Or, to put it another way, the base pay per performance has increased 62% faster than inflation over the past 35 years.

            And there is no law stating that Met orchestra members have to live in Manhattan.

    • ML

      Agreed. Good comment.

  • luvtennis

    While it is clear that the crisis is past, I would not want to be the lawyer charged with drafting the final agreement -- there will be some beelzebubs in the details, for sure.

    As for the bargaining team bonus, there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about it. Performance bonuses of much greater magnitude are given routinely in large corporations in connection with closing large and complex deals. Presumably, it is in the agreement because the Met agreed to pay it on behalf of the union. Again, not unusual.

  • There’s a me-too at E2b, a sure indication that AGMA and AFM are the more powerful of the many craft unions at the Met.

    • operaassport

      That’s a common clause in contracts and has nothing to do with who is more powerful.

      • Me-toos are “common clauses” if you can win them. Does 32BJ have one that is as good as that one? The musicians simply have more leverage than the other employees in this situation was my only point.

  • tannengrin

    Is that a still from the “Castorf Ring” Rheingold? Has that been made available on DVD or other visual media yet?

    • I don’t think it’s been filmed (I don’t think Bayreuth ever films a cycle in its first outing). That’s probably a media photo that La Cieca is using.

      • Bill

        Did anyone besides me attend the Fierrabras at
        Bard last Sunday. I see no reviews in the NY
        Times and not a peep from JJ in the Observer today -- perhaps he is on strike. I thought the music
        was wonderful and some of the singers as well.

        In general, the Salzburg ongoing Fierrebras has been quite
        well reviewed.

        • Lohenfal

          Bill, I live too far away from Bard and didn’t see the Fierrabras you mention. However, the Salzburg production will be broadcast on BR Klassik this Saturday at 2:00 EDT. It is an opera that should be better known, like Euryanthe. Why should weak libretti prevent us from listening to Weber and Schubert?

          • Bill

            Lohenfal -- thanks -- both operas are very beautiful
            and I should like to write here on Parterre a
            few comments on the Schubert which had 31 glorious numbers (about 3 1/2 hours) but there seems to be
            no place for it. It was the first I heard the
            opera except maybe one or two hearings of the
            Abbado -- Vienna DGG CD.

            • Lohenfal

              The Abbado recording is the one I know. There was a concert performance in NYC in 1997 by the Collegiate Chorale. I didn’t get to that one either, but a friend of mine who did was quite impressed by the score. We could use a German Opera Company, like the one that visited NY in the early 1920’s. Our Met isn’t exactly doing what it should in this part of the repertory. This season: only one Wagner, one German Mozart, some Anglicized Humperdinck, and of course, Die lustige Witwe as a vehicle piece. Not very encouraging.

            • ML

              Bill, I have a tough question you might be able to answer. The Wiener Staatsoper archive and the Deutsche Grammophon album cover contradict each other about whether Ellen Shade or Cheryl Studer sings the role of Florinda. DG shows Studer. The archive lists performances — at the Theater an der Wien under Staatsoper auspices, I believe — with Shade in 1988 and 1990, and with Vejzovic in 1990. The Abbado recording is supposed to be “live” in 1988. Did they just patch Studer over Shade’s work?

            • Bill

              ML -- I responded to your query about Studer and Fierrabras on the other thread.
              The 1988 Theater an der Wien performances
              of Fierrabras were part of a “Wiener Festwochen” listing and though utilizing
              Staatsoper forces, are not listed in the Wiener Staatsoper archives. Only a subsequent series of performances under
              Abbado are listed in the archives and Studer
              was not in those casts but surely was in
              the 1988 Theater an der Wien “festwochen”
              performances. It would be hard to superimpose her voice in this opera with all the ensembles and scenes together with the chorus.

            • ML
        • ML

          That’s because, unusually in these parts nowadays, it respects the work it is purporting to present.

          • imelda

            Bill, ML,
            It was a bit of a scandal back in the day. (Also a technical marvel?)!!That the engineers at DG could completely “lift” someone OUT of a recording! Thomas Hampson went back to Vienna to re-record his duets with Studer. Studer recorded her part in the studio. Poor Ellen Shade knew NOTHING about being erased until the recording came out! Apparently, she jumped into the production during the second run (the next year?) when the Florinda in THOSE performances became ill, and it was only THEN that she found out ahout being replaced by Studer on the “live” recording. I remember thinking what an awful thing. Kudos to Shade for not telling them all to take a hike?

  • semira mide

    Totally OT, sorry. Live stream of first performance of critical edition of Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” from Rossini Opera Festival. Today at 2:30 ET. More information at later this AM. Stream at