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Veteran Rockettes Lose Tenure

August 14, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Negotiations between the union representing a group of Rockettes and the owners of Radio City Music Hall have broken down, with the owners kicking out the dancers’ claim to job guarantees.

Veteran Rockette performers in New York City _ like those in other places _ must try out in open auditions for parts as leg-kicking dancers, under new terms that management imposed.

Cablevision Systems Corp., owners of Radio City Entertainment, had set a deadline of Tuesday night to resolve a dispute with 41 Rockettes who work in New York and are members of the American Guild of Variety Artists.

The dancers, whose contract expired in February, wanted a job security clause that would guarantee they be rehired for new shows.

Radio City plans to hold open auditions for the New York performances, as it does for such shows as the Christmas spectaculars in places like Chicago and Atlanta. About 150 Rockettes work outside the city and routinely try out for their parts.

``To present the finest show possible, dancers must be selected on merit, and all Rockettes are encouraged to be a part of that selection process,″ Radio City Entertainment said in a statement. ``The current unfair roster system benefits only a privileged few Rockettes, some of whom have personally elected not to perform in recent years.″

Rockettes who are hired in open auditions will receive pay and benefit boosts, according to the statement.

The owners offered earlier to buy out the union members from their contracts, and guarantee to rehire at least half the veteran Rockettes.

Chief union negotiator John Hall said the New York Rockettes earn between $20,000 and $24,000 for their 15-week work schedule. He said Cablevision had offered to pay them $3,000 for every year of employment.

The 10 dancers who’ve been employed for more than 10 years would be offered buyouts worth $45,000 under the Cablevision proposal.

Union delegate Debby Murphy, a Rockette for the past 12 years, said she hoped a deal could be reached in which veteran dancers would be guaranteed slots in the 2003 Christmas Spectacular.

``We’re fighting for a legacy here,″ Murphy said. ``We’re about synchronization, keeping our legs together. A core group of Rockettes that work together on a regular basis that are able to produce the show.″

Open auditions for this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular were scheduled for Wednesday.

Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision Systems Corp., seeking to save money on many of its interests, plans to close 26 of its The Wiz stores and put its 59 Clearview Cinemas up for sale.

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