New Mexico Symphony Orchestra Ratifies New Contract

After performing the entire 2004-2005 concert season without a collective bargaining agreement, the musicians and board of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra reached a conclusion on Thursday, September 9, 2005 and ratified a new three year agreement…

The first year of the agreement is retroactive, impacting the 2004-2005 season when the musicians performed without a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The remaining two years cover the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.

According to a member of the NMSO players association negotiation committee, the three year contract provides some sizeable gains for the musicians who, up until the new agreement was reached, were earning $179 less than they did in 1992. The new agreement provides for improvements in base compensation as well as health care benefits. Highlights include:

  • Musicians will receive a one time retroactive payment of 8% for the 2004-2005 season.
  • Section Salary for the 2005-2006 season is $17,727.69.
  • Section Salary for the 2006-2007 season is $19,944.34.
  • Health insurance increase of 15% retroactive for the 2004-2005 season.
  • 7.5% increase in contribution toward health insurance for core and basic players in the 2005-2006 season.
  • 7.5% increase in contribution toward health insurance for core and basic players in the 2006-2007.
  • Musicians will now have a sick bank where they can donate their unused sick days for fellow musicians in need of additional sick leave. Also introduced in this contract is a disability insurance plan for the players.

  • The ratification of this three year agreement demonstrates a significant commitment toward improved artistic support from NMSO Board Chair, Greg Ellena, as well as the entire NMSO Board of Trustees and serves as a significant step toward becoming competitive with orchestras of comparable budget size.

    Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, media spokesperson for the musicians adds that, “The musicians are excited to begin the season on such a high note. We are grateful that our donors have faith in us and supported the fund that enabled our salary increases. We believe that this contract is a significant step towards our goal of fair and competitive wages. We are also encouraged that the organization is in the midst of organizational assessment. The musicians believe strongly in the future of the NMSO, and part of that is taking care of our future now.”

    “The board of directors knows that our musicians are our greatest asset and we are pleased that this agreement allows us to compensate their wonderful work while maintaining a financially responsible budget,” said Greg Ellena, chair of the NMSO board. “We are very fortunate in that some very generous individuals have come forward to make the resources available to allow us to reach this agreement.”

    This also signals the official end of the contentious 2004-2005 negotiation season for American orchestras. In Canada, the Montreal Symphony is still on strike after more than a year of unproductive negotiations.

    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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