The American Ballet Theatre said today that it expects a settlement in the three-week-old labor dispute between the ballet company and its dancers by next Tuesday.
Charles Dillingham, ABT's general manager, made the comment at the end of the first bargaining session since ABT locked out its dancers on Sept. 2. Negotiations are scheduled to continue tomorrow.
Although the two sides are still in dispute over travel expenses, work rule issues and fringe benefits, they are, according to the dancers, only about $100,000 apart on the issue of wages. That $100,000 figure is the total of the difference over the entire three-year contract period.
To the dancers' demand for wage parity with the higher-paid dancers of the New York City Ballet, ABT has responded by offering an immediate one-year parity -- involving a 28 percent wage increase this season -- but has offered second- and third-year increases of only about 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The dancers are demanding 7 and 9 percent.
The dancers are also asking payment of wages lost because ABT threw them out of work. "We're not going to continue letting them lock us out every three years to save them money," said dancers' spokesman Frank Smith.
A Tuesday resolution -- which ABT predicted but Smith said the dancers do not expect -- would enable the company to salvage its Boston engagement, set for the week of Nov. 28. ABT has already canceled its two-week October season in Paris.
As for the company's four-week season in Washington, ABT said the Kennedy Center has said it will seek a replacement attraction if the labor dispute is not settled by mid-October, or even earlier.