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Met strikes union deal with musicians, set to reopen next month

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Demonstrators at a May 2021 rally supporting workers in labor disputes with the Metropolitan Opera, which on August 24 announced it had reached a deal with orchestra members./AFP
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Aug 25, 2021 - 09:26 AM

NEW YORK — After months of uncertainty members of the  Metropolitan Opera orchestra on Tuesday announced they’d ratified their contract with management, setting the stage for the largest US performing arts organization to reopen next month.

“We are thrilled to be returning to regular performances very soon, and look forward to reconnecting with our audiences,” said the local 802 branch president Adam Krauthamer and the Met Orchestra Committee in a joint statement.

The collective bargaining agreement follows months of often heated labor talks including pay cuts for musicians, who for nearly a year during the pandemic went unpaid.

“The members of the Met’s great orchestra have been through Herculean challenges during the sixteen months of the shutdown, as we struggled to keep the company intact,” said Met general manager Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager.

“Now, we look forward to rebuilding and returning to action.”

Terms of the agreement were not made public, but according to documents reported by The New York Times musicians and management struck a four-year deal including pay cuts of 3.7 percent, with vows to restore some of that pay once box office revenues hit 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The lack of a deal had threatened the Met’s 2021-22 season set to open in September, at which point its famed house will have been shuttered 18 months.

The orchestra shop is the last of three major Met unions to reach an deal, though several smaller unions have yet to find agreements.

The Times also said much of Met’s savings will come from reducing the company’s full-time orchestra to 83 from the previously required 90; a number of musicians retired during the pandemic, some of whom management is now allowed to not replace.

The Met aims to reopen on September 27 with “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” by Terence Blanchard, the first Black composer to stage a production at the esteemed venue.

In July Met management said all customers and staff along with orchestra and chorus members would need to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 during the 2021-22 season.

Children under the age of 12, a group currently ineligible for vaccines, will not be allowed to enter the Met even if the adults accompanying them are vaccinated.

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