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Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Broadway strike talks break down, no shows this week

SHOWSTOPPER The strike costs the New York City economy about US$2 million a day and it could be more if it lasts through the Thanksgiving holiday


Talks to end Broadway's longest strike in 32 years reached an impasse yesterday, resulting in performances for 27 shows being canceled through Nov. 25.

"We are profoundly disappointed to have to tell you that talks broke off tonight and that no further negotiations are scheduled," Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The League of American Theatres and Producers, said in a statement.

Negotiators for producers informed representatives for striking Broadway stagehands that what stagehands offered "was not enough," said Bruce Cohen, a spokesman for Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the Westin New York hotel where the talks were held.

Stagehands walked off the job on Nov. 10, after three months of start-stop negotiations. It is Broadway's longest stoppage since the musicians' union struck for 25 days in 1975, closing nine shows. The shuttered 27 shows include Chicago and Rent.

Producers contend that provisions in the contract that expired on July 31 required them to employ unnecessary stagehands.

"We presented a comprehensive proposal that responded to the union's concerns about loss of jobs and earnings and attempted to address our need for some flexibilities in running our business," St. Martin said. "The union rejected our effort to compromise and continues to require us to hire more people than we need."

Producers have canceled shows through Nov. 25 "out of respect for our public and our loyal theatergoers, many of whom are traveling from around the world," St. Martin said.

After breaking off for nine days, talks had resumed on Nov. 17. The two sides met at the Westin, a block west of Times Square, and talked until 11:30pm. They met all day yesterday and were seen leaving the hotel at about 9:30pm.

Negotiators included Robert Johnson, a senior executive overseeing labor relations for Walt Disney Co, and Thomas Short, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which authorized the strike by Local One.

The strike costs the New York City economy about US$2 million a day, Comptroller William Thompson said. It could be costlier as it continues through Thanksgiving, when New York is normally a magnet for tourists.

Stagehand leaders have said they are protecting the pay and benefits provided under a contract created through decades of negotiations.

Depending on their level of experience and the number of hours of overtime they work, some stagehands earn US$125,000 per year or more.

Particularly hard hit have been a crop of plays this season. They include Tom Stoppard's Rock `n' Roll and Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention.

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