Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unions Say City Opera Offer Would Gut Chorus and Orchestra

The NY Times reported that a day before New York City Opera was to announce its first post-Lincoln Center season, the company’s unions charged on Monday that the company had made proposals for a new contract that would gut the chorus and the orchestra, and turn the “people’s opera” into a freelance outfit.

The unions released City Opera’s terms, which call for ending guaranteed weeks of work and number of members, It would eliminate vacation pay, tenure, leaves and the current health insurance plans. In addition, instrument insurance — an important perk paid for by American orchestras — would stop.

Choristers and orchestra players would be paid only by the rehearsal and performance. The proposals promise that members of the chorus and orchestra rosters would be given preference for future jobs.

“It’s devastating,” said Gail Kruvand, the chairwoman of the orchestra’s negotiating committee. “It essentially eliminates the orchestra as we know it.”

The union officials said it was too early to respond with proposals.

The company has long been living beyond its means. The general manager and artistic director, George Steel, and the board chairman, Charles Wall, have said major cuts are needed to reduce fixed costs, like those for the labor force. They decided to move the company from its longtime home, the David H. Koch Theater (formerly called the New York State Theater), as another way of saving money.

Company officials did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. However, a spokeswoman, Maggie McKeon, issued a statement saying: “In light of a challenging economic climate, New York City Opera created and is executing a very difficult, but strategic new model that reverses a decadelong trend of debilitating deficits. As negotiations continue, New York City Opera will remain acting in good faith to find the best solution for everyone involved.”

Read more here.

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