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The union representing the San Francisco Opera’s singers, dancers and production members is accusing the company of violating its hard-won labor contract. Contract talks between the opera and the American Guild of Musical Artists dragged on for nearly a year before an agreement was ratified in June. Negotiations were marked by threats of a strike that would have jeopardized the company’s summer season. In the latest skirmish, the union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week, accusing the company of refusing arbitration to iron out grievances as negotiated in the contract. The union wants to compel management to go to arbitration, or follow negotiated procedures, to settle about 25 grievances the union has stacked up against the company. The Opera wouldn’t comment Wednesday on the lawsuit, saying that it was still in the process of reviewing it. The union — which represents 45 members of the Opera Chorus, eight dancers and 12 to 15 production personnel — points to a list of grievances the company has refused to address. The list includes the hiring of substitute choristers to replace those on leave, providing costumes for singers and requiring soloists to sing the chorus parts of the opera “The Mother of Us All” without extra compensation. The union also has taken issue with a salary hike for music director Donald Runnicles, whose pay increased from $361,000 in 2001 to $513,241 in 2002. The union said its singers and dancers agreed to a two-year wage freeze because of the opera’s dire financial circumstances. Company spokesman Robert Cable said Runnicles’ salary could be attributed to an increase in the number of productions he led. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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