The Louisville Orchestra Association countered the musicians’ latest proposal to reduce the 2005-2006 season by six weeks with an offer much like the one they presented at the onset of mediation, thus making their offer look very much like the same old pig but with a slightly lighter shade of red lipstick…
The most recent offer from management reduced the number of musicians cut down to per service status from 21 to 19 as well as offering those 19 musicians a one-time payment of $5,000, delivered at the end of the first year of the new contract period. The offer contains a few confusing and/or apprehensive elements:
The $5,000 payment is called a “bonus” by management but it’s difficult to understand how a reduction in pay could be considered anything but a cut. The 03/07/2006 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the orchestra board president, Joe Pusateri, said the one-time $5,000 payment would bring the annual salary for the 19 musicians cut back to per service status up to a level equal to the musicians current offer of cutting six weeks from the current season. Of course, assuming that is accurate it would only apply to the 2006-2007 season and after that, the 19 players would drop back down to the reduced salary level. The offer doesn’t address the musicians’ concerns related to artistic integrity as it requires a 25% reduction in full time musicians.
One outstanding question remains: if management is confident that they can pull together $95,000 by the end of the 2006-2007 season to make the 19 $5,000 one-time payments then how will that help them avoid bankruptcy in April.
According to multiple statements released by Joe Pusateri and outgoing Louisville Orchestra executive director Scott Provancher, the organization will run out of money by this April and the deadline to launch their recapitalization campaign have long since passed. As such, if the musicians agree to their offer, how will that prevent insolvency now?
The only way to avoid bankruptcy is if Pusateri releases the personal funds he has reported are available and they implement the recapitalization plan; all of which they stated is no longer possible. If those statements from Pusateri and Provancher are accurate, then management’s offer may not carry much merit with the musicians.
Management’s recent offer also brings to question their sincerity to negotiate in good faith. Typically, when both sides indicate they are willing to enter mediation that’s a sign that they are also willing to compromise in areas they’ve previously held firm. To date, we’ve seen the musicians offer additional cost saving measures for the current season by cutting six weeks off of the season (two of which were already slotted as vacation paid weeks) as well as offer a wage freeze for part of the new contract term.
Furthermore, the musicians have continued to demonstrate their good faith in the mediation process by allowing Joe Pusateri an opportunity to address the Louisville Orchestra rank-and-file directly, an act typically prohibited under the regulations pertaining to contract negotiations.
The musician’s proposal to reduce the current season by 14.2% in conjunction with the additional offers should be enough to demonstrate their flexibility and resolve toward finding a viable solution to their current problems. As such, Joe Pusateri should agree to release the funds at his disposal to eliminate the immediate threat of bankruptcy and take the organization up to the point where the reduced 2005-2006 season would conclude.
However, if Joe Pusateri takes advantage of his privilege to speak to the musicians while simultaneously refusing their good-faith offers on the mediation table in lieu of his initial take-it-or-leave-it reduced core offer, then he’s demonstrating his willingness to abuse the mediation process to advance his personal agenda. That’s precisely the sort of behavior he has accused the musicians of since January.
The musicians have come down significantly in their proposals but Joe Pusateri has remained constant in purporting that the only solution he’s willing to accept is to reduce the core orchestra by 25% for an indefinite period of time, possibly decades.
April, and bankruptcy, is right around the corner for Louisville. Right now, there exist options which provide for a manageable solution to the organization’s problems. The decision to take advantage of that option rest squarely on the shoulders of Joe Pusateri.
In all likelihood, the events following his address to the musicians will influence his final decision. The question that remains is if the musicians continue to disagree with Joe Pusateri’s position (even after he has the opportunity to address the rank-and-file) will he be willing to be more flexible or will he ride the mediation process all the way to chapter 7. Only time will tell.
Of course, those are only a few possible outcomes and the possibility of improbable events coming to pass increases as deadlines approach.