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News: Dance
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Washington Ballet Reaches Agreement With Union, Ending Labor Crisis

By Ben Mattison
06 Mar 2006

The Washington Ballet and the union that represents the company's dancers have reached a collective bargaining agreement, the union announced today.

According to Alan Gordon, the president of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the two sides agreed to a new contract this morning after a "marathon" negotiating session that began on March 1.

No details of the agreement, or information on when the company's season will resume, were immediately available. According to AGMA, company officials will appear at a press conference this afternoon.

Washington Ballet performances came to a halt in December, midway through the company's annual run of the The Nutcracker, with dancers demanding an interim agreement that included employment and safety guarantees. The company later canceled performances scheduled for February and March, citing the financial losses resulting from the cancellation of lucrative Nutcracker performances.

The work stoppage, which the company said was a strike and the union called a lockout, followed a year of tension that began with the dancers voting to be represented by AGMA. Management and the union later clashed over the termination of two dancers who had been union activists and food allowances for an Italian tour. The conflict over the dancers was eventually settled, but the tour did not take place.

In a marked change from the acrimony of the last year, a statement issued by AGMA today thanked Washington Ballet board president Kay Kendall and artistic director Septime Webre, citing their "devotion to the artistry of dance [and] steadfast dedication to the Washington Ballet and to its dancers."

The statement also thanked federal mediator Joel Schaefer, who oversaw the talks. The dancers had earlier proposed that Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser mediate the talks, but management declined.




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