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Metropolitan Opera in tentative pact with 2 major unions

The Metropolitan Opera has reached tentative contract accords with two of its largest unions in negotiations that extended beyond the midnight deadline, federal mediators announced early Monday. Negotiations are still ongoing with 10 more smaller unions.

The unions for the Met's orchestra and chorus, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) agreed to the deals, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) Deputy Director Allison Beck said in a statement.

The agreements are subject to ratification.

Federal mediators joined the talks in response to a joint request for help from the parties, Beck said, adding that the parties came to a meeting of the minds after "jointly retaining Eugene Keilin, a highly regarded independent financial analyst, to conduct a confidential financial analysis in an effort to help the parties reach new labor agreements."

But that leaves a third major Met union without a deal -- Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents stage hands, carpenters and electricians, according to The New York Times. That union didn't take part in the talks with the mediator.

A spokesman for the Met said the contract deadline has been extended through midnight Tuesday with the remaining unions. The Met had set a deadline of midnight Sunday. A lockout could threaten the opera's season, scheduled to start Sept. 22.

"We are grateful for their commitment to the collective bargaining process and grateful most of all that the Metropolitan Opera, one of the world's premier cultural institutions, will continue providing outstanding operas for all to enjoy," she said in a statement. Gelb had demanded pay cuts of about 17 percent, saying production costs had skyrocketed and the operatic art was in trouble, with shrinking audiences. Union members said such a radical move was unwarranted, given the Met's $2.8 million deficit on a budget of $326 million. The Met management also wanted to slash pensions and health care benefits. Fifteen unions representing about 2,500 chorus singers, orchestra musicians, stagehands, carpenters and others had been negotiating, on and off, since February. Their contracts expired July 31. Three reached new agreements earlier his month- those representing ushers, security guards and cleaning staff. With the lockout deadline approaching the 11th hour several weeks ago, a federal mediator stepped in to try to bring the two sides closer. Gelb's lockout deadline was extended four times while a financial analyst conducted a study of company accounts. Salaries at the Met range from a base pay of more than $100,000 for orchestra musicians to $200,000 for chorus members, including huge overtime costs they blame on Gelb's plans. Hundreds of performers have been rallying in front of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, wearing black T-shirts that read, "United for the Metropolitan Opera."

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