Home » Louisville Orchestra board, musicians remain far apart on contract

Louisville Orchestra board, musicians remain far apart on contract

LOUISVILLE – April 4, 2012 – Following 20 months of talks between the Louisville Orchestra and its musicians, the Louisville Orchestra Board issued a detailed letter to the Musicians’ Union specifying employment terms that would provide a sustainable basis over the long-term. The Board of Directors has not received a responsive proposal from the musicians’ union.

Board President Chuck Maisch mailed the letter to all orchestra musicians and their union on March 26 outlining terms to which the board would agree if the musicians submitted such an offer, and asked for response by Monday, April 2. Contract terms Maisch said would be acceptable include:
• A multi-year agreement;
• A professional orchestra of up to 55 salaried musicians;
• Guarantee of 30 weeks employment per year;
• Base pay of $925 per week, plus medical and pension benefits
• Other contract details resolved through a binding process led by a mutually agreed upon arbitrator.

“The motivation to send our letter came from written statements made by a number of musicians that they were already in agreement regarding the most critical aspects of a contract that would ensure fiscal sustainability, including a maximum of 55 salaried musicians. A letter from the musicians’ lawyer late last week contained dramatically different terms and did not address the terms that can enable the organization to be sustainable based on the Orchestra’s reliable income, therefore it was deemed not responsive to our communication,” Maisch said.

The musicians’ proposal suggested continuing the terms of their expired contract with the Orchestra. That contract cost the orchestra nearly $2 million dollars more annually than its reliable revenue provided.

“The majority of annual income received by the orchestra goes directly to paying musician salaries. Every other cost area has been significantly reduced in an effort to bring costs in line with income,” Maisch said. “For decades the Board has been pressured to agree to a cost structure well above reliable income levels. We are committed to a sustainable cost structure and responsible governance.”

Maisch said the Board of Directors seeks a multi-year contract rather than a one-year bridge agreement.

“We’ve been down that road before, accepting short-term solutions that only delay the need to address our chronic fiscal problems,” Maisch said.

“We wanted our musicians to come back to work with a fiscally responsible agreement. The Board is committed to presenting a 2012-13 season and we wanted that to be with our current musicians,” Maisch said. The Orchestra issued a letter to the musicians on Tuesday rejecting their proposal on the grounds that it fails to meet any criteria for a sustainable future.

Maisch also said that the musicians did not, in fact, offer or agree to binding arbitration, a process that typically provides for a neutral arbitrator certified by the National Academy of Arbitrators. “We suggested allowing a certified arbitrator, to make decisions regarding all remaining issues in a multi-year contract. That is a common method to close complex collective bargaining agreements,” he said. “Instead, the musicians proposed having an external consultant unilaterally make all decisions for the orchestra.”

“Our plans for the Orchestra go far beyond this next season,” said Maisch. “Our Board has a vision for the orchestra that will make it more relevant and valuable to the community by broadening its reach, making our programming more accessible to all, expanding our educational impact, partnering with more community institutions such as the University of Louisville, and developing new and expanded programs for our community. The only way we can address the chronic shortfalls of the past is to focus 100% of our attention on community service and that’s the direction in which this board is headed,” Maisch said.

Future updates will be posted on the Orchestra’s website: www.LouisvilleOrchestra.org.