Contract talks among the Metropolitan Opera House and 15 unions went down to the wire as both sides inched closer to the midnight lockout deadline Friday morning.
A federal mediator was called in during the final days of negotiations but by press time Thursday evening, there was no indication an agreement was near. A lockout would affect rehearsals for the opera's season, which is set to start in September. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said it would also damage the city's economy.
"The Met's performers, stagehands, technicians and assistants deserve a fair outcome, as do the scores of restaurants, shops and other vendors that rely on the Opera for their livelihoods," he said in a statement Thursday.
The Met Opera's general manager Peter Gelb wants to cut labor costs for orchestra players, chorus singers and stagehands by about 16 to 17% in order to counter the decline in revenues over the years. The unions representing the 2,500 employees, however, argue that Gelb has been mismanaging funds and producing lackluster shows which draw crowds away.
"Workers at the Met and their unions have been trying hard to find an agreement that addresses the financial claims made by the Met in a way that does not jeopardize the livelihoods of the Met's workers and their families," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
Both sides have said they want to avoid a lockout and are willing to compromise to avoid any delays in productions. A spokesman for Gelb said the Met Opera would consider extending the contract deadline while they hammer out a deal.
"The Met is willing to compromise, and if the other groups are as well, we're confident that we can reach new agreements," he said in a statement Thursday.