Great White Way shutdown a possibility

Broadway is one step closer to a potential shutdown, with labor talks between Rialto producers and the stagehands’ union coming to a close Tuesday night with both sides putting their best and final offers on the table.

The League of American Theaters and Producers made their offer at around 6:45pm Tuesday. Local One responded with their own best, last offer about 10:10pm.

Talks concluded shortly thereafter, with no date yet set for further meetings.

If an agreement is not reached, the mostly likely result would be a lockout initiated by the producers, an action that would darken the majority of Broadway offerings. Over the past few years, producers have amassed a “mutual assistance fund” of around $20 million to see shows through such a work stoppage.

Stagehands went to work Tuesday evening.

According to a statement from League exec director Charlotte St. Martin, the producers’ final offer includes a 16% wage increase over five years, a separate 10% increase during a production’s load-in period, another increase for the lowest paid stagehands and a new sick-pay provision.

“It is a compromise that preserves many contract provisions Local One sought to protect, but at the same time liberalizes some archaic work rules,” St. Martin said.

“The union addressed nearly every item on the producers’ list and offered imaginative solutions that met the producers’ requests,” said Local One prexy James J. Claffey in a statement issued in response. “What the producers failed to do was recognize our suggestions with exchanges of their own.”

The two orgs have been locked in often tense contract negotiations for several weeks. Producers hope to change work rules they consider outdated and overly costly, while stagehands aim to preserve what they consider the hard-won protection of their livelihoods.

The last Rialto shutdown, a 2003 strike called by the musicians union, shuttered Broadway for four days at an estimated loss of about $5 million in box office.

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