Nearly a month after the contract between Sotheby’s and its art handlers’ union, Teamsters Local 814, expired, the two sides have yet to reach a deal on a new agreement. Union leaders have floated the possibility of a strike, but are holding back on acting on that threat for now.
The Teamsters union has demanded that the auction house not ask for any cuts in headcount or salary, since it has realized record sales in recent years, according to a report in today’s Independent. Last year, auction sales at the publicly traded house totaled an all-time high of $4.3 billion, a $2.1 billion increase over its 2009 performance.
The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this month that Sotheby’s privately held rival, Christie’s, reached a four-year agreement with the union in May that increased union handlers from 46 to 49, with two more scheduled to be hired by March 2012, and the group may hoping to strike a similarly favorable deal here.
“We’re dealing with a company that’s wildly profitable and not in any trouble,” Jason Ide, the president of Local 814, told Crain’s. “It looks to me like they’re trying to take advantage of the climate,” referring to setbacks that labor groups have suffered in recent months.
Sotheby’s has said it will continue to negotiate with the workers, issuing a statement that reads, in part: “Sotheby’s has a long history of a constructive and cooperative relationship with the unions that represent our employees, and has reached fair and equitable contracts in the past.”