The Metropolitan Opera yesterday proposed bringing in a federal mediator into its negotiations with 15 unions to prevent a lockout at midnight Thursday.

A Met Opera spokesman said the call for a representative from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would be "a more pragmatic way forward," in their bargaining talks.

“When we proposed a federal mediator to [American Guild of Musical Artists], they asked if a mediator would be involved in our other negotiations,” the spokesman explained in a statement. “We did present the possibility to Local 802, and 802 said they would consider it.”?

One of the unions, American Guild of Musical Artists, said it would be willing to accept federal mediation but it was unclear if the other unions accepted the offer.

The contracts with the unions are set to expire at midnight Thursday and Met Opera executive director Peter Gelb has already warned workers that he will stick to his plan and lock the doors if there is no agreement.

Gelb said the opera needed immediate solutions to combat falling revenues. He wants to reduce labor costs 17%.

The musicians, stage hands and other staff represented by the unions, however, argue they are being punished for Gelb's mismanagement, which they charge led to a drop in attendance and cost overrun.

Laura Dolan, a spokeswoman for Associated Musicians of Greater New York, said Gelb focused too much on overpriced productions that received less than stellar reviews and hasn't been interested in other budget solutions.

The union submitted a plan that they said would save $32 million without sacrificing their salaries or compensation.

"We're still looking for ways the met can save money," she said.

A lockout would delay rehearsals for the start of the September season.

Last year, another city opera house, the New York City Opera, closed its doors after it failed to raise enough money via a Kickstarter campaign to stay alive.

(With Reuters)