Lyric Opera reaches tentative contract agreement with key union, avoids lockout

Member vote expected tonight

August 17, 2011

By Lynette Kalsnes

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(Flickr/Damian Entwistle)

The Lyric Opera of Chicago has reached a tentative contract agreement with its union of singers, dancers, actors and production staff.

The Lyric announced Wednesday in a press release that the company and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) have agreed to contract terms for the upcoming season, ending weeks of tense negotiations. The deal still needs final approval. AGMA members are expected to vote tonight.

“It was a very difficult negotiation, but ultimately our negotiating committee decided that it would be wise to make an investment in the company’s future to help protect its viability, and so they negotiated an executive agreement that helps the company and gets some advantages for the members we represent,” said Alan Gordon, the national executive director of AGMA.

“I think it was the best agreement possible under the circumstances given the company’s financial structure and the fact that all opera companies are suffering,” Gordon said.

He declined to release any details of the contract before the member vote tonight, but did say the Lyric made “movement” on some of the issues that were “troublesome for us.”

The two sides were locked in a dispute over the size of cuts to worker pay and benefits.

The Lyric reportedly threatened to lockout AGMA workers on Aug. 22 over the contentious negotiations. In response, the union told workers to “be prepared” to picket a free concert next month and possibly strike opening night.

The Lyric says the tentative agreement “means all performances will proceed as planned.” That paves the way for the season to open as scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 1, with a production of Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman

Terms of the contract are not yet known.  The Lyric says they'll release further details after final ratification by the parties involved. That's expected to occur by the end of next week.