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Lockout Looms If Labor Deal Isn't Reached At Metropolitan Opera House

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Negotiations are underway as a new deadline approaches for the Metropolitan Opera House and its employees to agree on a new contract.

As CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported, if an agreement isn't reached by midnight, there could be a lockout.

Talks were extended by a week last Sunday, and a federal mediator has been using that time to examine the Met's books.

The opera house's operating costs have swelled by an estimated $100 million in the past eight years. This as they've expanded their reach globally.

The Met said two-thirds of that are labor costs.

"It is the most complicated of art forms, and therefore it is the most expensive," said Peter Gelb.

Gelb, the Met's general manager, said he needs workers to take a pay cut estimated to be 17 percent, Gainer reported.

"The difficult part for me is that, it's not that I want to cut their wages, I have to for the Met to survive," he said.

Gelb claims the concessions the Met is looking for in their contract negotiations with its employees will help cover a $2.8 million deficit in the opera house's $300 million budget.

He also insists it's not the workers' salaries he has a problem with, but rather benefits like 16 weeks of paid vacation for the orchestra.

Musicians, however, say that's necessary.

"There's injuries and repetitive stress things, so it's like athletes where you have an off-season," said Jessica Phillips Rieske.

Earlier this month, a rally was held by the Met musicians as talks continued.

"We need to meet in the middle," said one protester. "I mean this is an institution, one of the greatest institutions in this amazing city."

In all, there are about 2,500 singers, musicians, carpenters, and other workers whose contracts all expired in July.

"We're not saying you can't do the big, grand, lavish production, but how about maybe instead of doing six, why don't you do five," said Joseph Hartnett.

The opera season begins in just over a month.

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