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ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

Thanks for listening to All Things Considered. I'm Eric Westervelt at NPR West. The drama behind the scenes at New York's Metropolitan Opera took a surprising turn yesterday evening. Many of the unions that make up the opera's workforce were in the midst of labor negotiations and they face the threat of a lock-out at midnight tonight. But those negotiations have now been put on hold for a week while an outside analyst take a look at the Mets finances. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: For months now, unions representing Met employees have been negotiating with the company's leadership. Both sides have been extremely vocal in the press. This past Friday, musicians and singers rallied and performed outside the Mets Lincoln Center Home. There have been multiple threats of lock-outs from management and accusations of financial mismanagement from labor.

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MICHAEL COOPER: Well, the Metropolitan Opera is in the midst of its most serious labor crisis in more than three decades.

SANDERS: Michael Cooper has been covered comma for the New York Times. He says the dispute boils to just how much the Met is in the hole. For the 2012/ 2013 season, the met claimed a deficit of about $3 million on a budget that's over $320 million.

COOPER: The unions looked at that and said there can't be that much of a problem. That's the very small deficit impaired to a very large budget. Peter Gelb The Met's General Managers said that the deficit only was kept that small because he had managed to do record fund raising from donors and also because the Met has been spending down its endowment.

SANDERS: A federal mediator within this Thursday to work with Gelb and two of the company's largest unions. Yesterday, the two sides agreed to and outside investigation into the Mets finances. The result of that investigation will be confidential and nonbinding, but they will give both side another week to keep negotiating and avoid tonight's threatened lock-out. Met leadership is asking for some $30 million in cuts to employee compensation and benefits. But Met workers argue that Peter Gelb is wasting money on elaborate new productions that are not filling in the opera house.

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JIM CLAFFEY: And that's up to to make opera grand but then you can't go and suggest that, you know, the pay that you're providing for the people to put the production on is too much.

SANDERS: Jim Claffey is the president of the New York chapter of the International Alliance Of Theatrical Stage Employees. That union represents the Met's stagehands. He says, whatever happens, things have to change for the Met.

CLAFFEY: What's going on the past years of discretionary spending in the business model can't be the next five years or the Met will not be here.

SANDERS: The Metropolitan Opera's new season is supposed to start in less than two months. Sam Sanders, NPR News.

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