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Metropolitan Opera Agrees To Postpone Potential Lockout

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Metropolitan Opera and unionized employees have agreed to postpone a lockout for 72 hours, as a federal mediator headed to the city to resolve a labor faceoff between the two sides.

The opera had been threatening to lock out musicians and other unionized workers Friday unless contracts were hammered out by midnight. But late Thursday night, the two sides agreed to postpone the potential lockout to Monday.

General Manager Peter Gelb has demanded that the unions accept salary cuts of what he estimates at 17 percent. That's intended to cover a deficit of $2.8 million in the Met's $300 million annual budget.

Metropolitan Opera Threatening Union Lockout On Friday

But unions representing singers, orchestra musicians, carpenters and others say they'll lose as much as 30 percent of their income through pension cuts and higher health care costs.

The Met proposed a federal mediator Wednesday. The unions agreed to the mediator Thursday.

"We're willing to talk up until past midnight. We want to negotiate a deal," union leader Joe Hartnett told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell before the agreement to extend the deadline. "We want to work. We want to save the Met."

Tino Gagliardi, president of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York's Local 802, told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria that he thought the Met's management is bent on locking everyone out. Gagliardi is pinning his hopes on the federal mediator.

He also accused the management of trying to fix its money problems on the backs of "the people that actually make the Metropolitan Opera happen."

"We've given him many ways on how he can be more efficient and save close to $35 million, OK?" Gagliardi said.

Metropolitan Opera Threatening Union Lockout On Friday

Gagliardi said if there is a lockout, it would put the start of the upcoming season, which is scheduled to open in September, in jeopardy.

The Met declined a request for an interview but did issue a statement indicating the unions need to cut costs, Haskell reported.

Stagehands loaded up thousands of dollars' worth of personal tools into pickup trucks Thursday, preparing for the possible lockout, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

"Every guy that works in the shop has at least $2,500 worth of handtools that we buy on our own to do our job," metal shop worker Al Cittadino said. "It does hurt because everybody has a mortgage, everybody has kids in college."

Met Union Workers Hope For Best, Prepare For Worst

If a work stoppage goes ahead, it would be the first since 1980, when a labor dispute involving the orchestra sparked an 11-week lockout and delayed the season opening until December, The New York Times reported.

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