Broadway seeks givebacks from the industry’s unions before performances resume, the head of the trade group that represents commercial producers and theater owners told an online industry conference Monday.
“There have been general conversations [with unions] about what the contracts might look like, what might be changed,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said during the final day of The TheaterMakers Summit. “We’ll have to get to the changes, if any, toward wages and work rules and all of that to get open, because the producers will have to figure out if they can reopen. If you reopen at 50 percent of your previous attendance, nobody even comes close to recouping at 50 percent of the theater being open. So we’ll have to talk about things.”
Interviewed by Julie James, a program director and host at SiriusXM radio, St. Martin declined to elaborate about negotiations. “They’re not at the serious stage yet because we have to get safety first and foremost,” she said, adding that she’s hopeful that Federal stimulus money could “give us a little bit of breathing room.”
Even with experimental vaccines that appear to be highly effective in preventing Covid-19, the city’s tourism agency, NYC & Co., forecasts that tourism won’t likely rebound to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Tourists account for nearly two-thirds of the Broadway audience.
“We are going to have to rebuild again,” Disney Theatrical President Thomas Schumacher said at the conference on Saturday.
Productions in Broadway’s 41 Tony Award-eligible theaters employ one of the most unionized workforces in the country. There are 17 unions, representing actors, stage managers, musicians, stagehands and box office personnel, among others. They made concessions to reduce labor costs after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when Broadway shut down for just a few days. In the current crisis, many producers expect performances to be suspended for about 18 months, until fall 2021.
Schumacher, who is chairman of the League, previously broached the desire for concessions. “Is there going to be a robust dialogue about pay rates? Of course there is,” he was quoted in the Washington Post in September.
Asked about St. Martin’s comments, James J. Claffey Jr., president of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents stagehands, called it “extremely disrespectful” to propose concessions “through the press.”
“The membership of Local One IATSE is obviously sensitive to the crisis our industry and our country faces, but statements in the press and without a single conversation with their union representation is highly inappropriate,” Claffey wrote in a text message to Broadway Journal Monday night.
A member of the treasurers and ticket sellers union said he’s concerned that the League will seek draconian cuts. “The unions are girding for the onslaught,” he said.