The Metropolitan Opera has reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with the union that represents its stagehands, increasing the likelihood that the company will return to the stage in September after its longest-ever shutdown.
The deal was reached early Saturday morning, and the union is planning to brief its leaders and members after the Fourth of July holiday, said a spokesman for the union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The union and the company declined to share details of the deal, which must be voted on by the union’s members.
The company’s roughly 300 stagehands were locked out late last year because of a disagreement over how long and lasting pandemic pay cuts would be. But the opera house is in desperate need of workers to ready its complex operations if it is to reopen in less than three months. The pressure on the talks increased as the two sides negotiated for nearly four weeks.
The Met, which has said that it has lost more than $150 million in earned revenues since the pandemic forced it to close in March 2020, has asked for significant cuts to the take-home pay of the members of its unions. Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, has said that in order to survive the pandemic and prosper beyond it, the company must cut payroll costs for those unions by 30 percent, effectively cutting take-home pay by around 20 percent. Union leaders have resisted the proposed cuts, arguing that many of its members already went many months without pay.
A spokeswoman for the Met declined to comment on the deal.
Because of the Local One lockout, the Met outsourced some of its set-building work to Wales and California, a move that angered union members who struggled during the pandemic. Those sets have been shipped to New York City, where many hours of labor are still needed to get productions up and running.
Of the other two major Met unions, one, which represents the orchestra, is still in negotiations. The contract with the other, the American Guild of Musical Artists, which includes chorus members, soloists and stage managers, saved money by modestly cutting pay, moving members from the Met’s health insurance plan to the union’s, and reducing the size of the regular chorus. The projected savings fall short of Mr. Gelb’s demand for a 30 percent payroll cut.