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As deadline is extended, Met Opera workers say they hope to avert lockout

Demonstrators play their musical instruments outside Lincoln Center during a protest over a labor dispute with New York's Metropolitan Opera, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in New York. Metropolitan Opera says labor talks with its unions have been extended for an additional 72 hours, averting a threatened midnight lockout. The company announced late Thursday that the delay was requested by a federal mediator who had arrived just hours earlier to try to resolve the labor standoff. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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Demonstrators play their musical instruments outside Lincoln Center during a protest over a labor dispute with New York's Metropolitan Opera, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in New York. Metropolitan Opera says labor talks with its unions have been extended for an additional 72 hours, averting a threatened midnight lockout. The company announced late Thursday that the delay was requested by a federal mediator who had arrived just hours earlier to try to resolve the labor standoff. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Unionized workers at the Metropolitan Opera said Friday they want to work with management to avoid shutting down one of New York City's most prestigious cultural institutions.

A day after a lockout deadline was postponed, Tino Gagliardi, president of the Met orchestra's union, told about 100 performers and other union members at a rally that it was negotiating in good faith.

Met General Manager Peter Gelb had threatened a lockout at 12:01 a.m. EDT Friday (0400 GMT) Friday if the unions did not agree to pay cuts. Management announced late Thursday it had agreed to a federal mediator's request to extend the deadline for the threatened lockout until 12:01 a.m. EDT Monday.

The Met also announced it had reached new contract agreements with three of the 15 unions whose contracts expired, including those representing ushers, security guards and cleaning staff.

"The Met is hopeful that the 72-hour extension of the negotiating period will allow productive talks with the unions who have not yet reached agreement with the Met," Gelb said in a statement Friday. "We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we've agreed to an extension."

Gelb has demanded that the unions accept salary cuts of about 17 per cent, to cover a deficit of $2.8 million in the Met's $326 million annual budget.

But unions representing about 2,500 chorus singers, orchestra musicians, stagehands, carpenters and others say they'll lose as much as 30 per cent of their income through additional pension cuts and higher health care costs.

"We believe that with well-chosen productions and with expert management, the Met can live within its budget and present innovative grand opera while also offering competitive compensation to attract and retain the best musicians in the world," Gagliardi said.

Tenor Nathan Carlisle said union members want to work with Gelb to find a middle ground.

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