More Contract Negotiation Extensions

It appears that the Chicago Symphony now joins Cleveland in extending the deadline for reaching a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).  Chicago Tribune critic, Wynne Delacoma, reported in today’s issue that talks have been extended through October 31, 2004.  The article also reports that a retired judge has been brought in to mediate the remainder of the bargaining sessions.

I think this is an excellent example of how flexible both musicians and managers can be when it comes to bargaining methods.

There’s always been a great deal of talk in the industry about which bargaining method is best.  Some people swear by traditional methods and others endorse processes such as Interest Based Bargaining.

But at the end of the day the best bargaining method is what works for any given situation.

Each negotiation has a special set of circumstances that accompany it and as such, that negotiation requires whichever bargaining process is best suited to find a solution.

Case in point, after the hostile 1996 San Francisco Symphony strike, both musicians and managers decided that a new bargaining approach would be healthier for the entire organization.  As a result, they embarked on a bargaining approach outlined by Robert Mnookin, commonly referred to today as Interest Based Bargaining, or IBB (you can read about the details of that process in the October 2001 edition of Harmony).

But even though that process worked well for the stakeholders of the SFS, that doesn’t mean it’s now the best method for everyone else to use.

In order for such a process to work, both management and musicians must be willing to create a particular set of conditions in order for the process to work.

I would have considerable doubts that such a process would work for the negotiations currently underway at the Philadelphia Orchestra.  In their case, the best bargaining method is undoubtedly something besides IBB.

I would also cast a wary eye at IBB methods being used in any situation where a board of directors and management are claiming that their situation is the victim of “structural deficits” (an issue I touched on briefly back on August 26).

In the vast majority of those cases, the problem isn’t that the orchestra is growing beyond the capacity of the community to support it, rather that the board has reached their personal limits to raise funds.  The answer in those situations is an influx of additional board leadership with grater connections to the remaining funds as of yet untapped in the community and not forcing players into accepting concessions “for the good of the organization”.

Now, the real question to ask in a few months is “did these orchestras currently involved in negotiations make the best choices in how they bargain?”

Only one answer is certain; we’re bound to find out.

All of this adds to further understanding the importance of contract negotiations as examined in the ongoing series of “Negotiation Process” articles appearing here at Adaptistration.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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