Potential Broadway lockout delayed

Producers, stagehands renegotiate deadline

Looks like Broadway can breathe easy — at least for now.

Rialto producers and the legit stagehands union agreed Friday to continue contract talks in meetings tomorrow and Thursday, thereby avoiding a work stoppage that looked possible today.

The current agreement between the League of American Theaters and Producers and the stagehands union, Local One, expired in July.

Negotiations have heated up since Labor Day, with the producers declaring a deadline of Sept. 30 for a resolution.

If the stagehands had not accepted the producers’ last and best offer, it seemed likely that the league would call a lockout of Local One, darkening the majority of productions on the Broadway boards.

The two sides had then planned talks for today, which had legiters speculating on the possibility of a lockout called this evening.

The agreement to meet for two further sessions seems an encouraging step toward a new contract without the brinkmanship of an economically destabilizing shutdown.

“We intend to meet with the union next week in order to achieve a deal before failure to do so would negatively impact our shows scheduled to open in October,” said Charlotte St. Martin, exec director of the league.

Both sides have characterized negotiations thus far as frank and businesslike, but both also acknowledge that tough issues need to be addressed.

The producers aim to adjust the contractual obligations for stagehand employment. The current agreement is seen by producers as outdated and costly, while the stagehands contend that the requirements are hard-earned compromises that protect their livelihood.

With no further meetings yet scheduled beyond Thursday, a work stoppage remains a possibility.

The last Broadway shutdown occurred in 2003, when a strike called by the musicians union lasted four days and generated an estimated box office loss of $5 million, a sum that does not include attendant losses in Gotham’s restaurant and hospitality businesses.

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