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City Ballet and Dancers Settle Union Contract

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After a marathon session that lasted over 12 hours, the union representing dancers and orchestra members at the New York City Ballet and the company's management have settled their contract.

The dancers agreed to take a wage freeze the first year, but will get a 2.5 percent wage increase in the second year according to the new contract, which expires next July. Dancers who perform with City Ballet's smaller touring companies will also be covered in the new contract's stipulations on sick pay, overtime and bereavement leave.

The director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, Alan Gordon, said that the negotiations were contentious, but that the dancers ultimately got what they wanted. They had been prepared to picket the company's annual fundraising gala on May 11 or stage a protest at a performance during the new season, which began May 3 with a celebration of George Balanchine.

In an e-mail to WNYC, the ballet's executive director, Katherine Brown, said the contract was "reasonable and fair," but that there was further work to do to lower the company's operating costs. City Ballet is projecting a deficit of $6 million in financial year 2011.

Gordon said that the dancers felt the budget problems were unrelated to their salaries.

"It's the way that the company plans ballets, markets the ballets, and the way that the company publicizes the ballets," he said. "All of which the dancers think are antiquated and out of touch with today's realities."

 City Ballet gave its first performance—with a new contract in place—on Tuesday.