The musicians and management of the San Antonio Symphony are heading into the home stretch with three days remaining until their current collective bargaining agreement expires, but what happens after the deadline passes…
First off, there are no self fulfilling prophecies and any one of a number of situations could develop. Here are some of the most common alternatives:
Both Sides Come To An Agreement
Regardless of how far apart two sides appear in a labor negotiation, there is always the possibility that both sides can find an agreeable middle ground during the last few days of bargaining. Orchestras have been in tougher negotiating spots before and pulled things out in time so don’t think that can’t happen in San Antonio too.
Both Sides Come To An Agreement, Sorta…
In light of some particularly sticky topics such as health care benefits and pensions, some orchestras have utilized a tool that allows both sides to sign an agreement on a majority of issues while leaving one or two narrowly defined topics for further discussion. In these cases, these mini-negotiations are usually defined in a side letter to the newly signed collective bargaining agreement and outline how discussions will continue, if there are any deadlines, etc.
Both Sides Agree To “Play & Talk”
A well used tool by managers and musicians in recent years, “Play & Talk” is exactly what it sounds like; both sides agree that although the collective bargaining agreement has expired they will continue under the terms of the expired contract and conduct business as usual while simultaneously continuing in negotiations (but even those details can be flexible). It is far from a solution and both sides walk a tight rope as they buy time searching for an agreement.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how Play & Talk sessions are implemented; sometimes they have fixed deadlines whereas both parties could also agree to extend the negotiations indefinitely. However, in many cases any agreement produced by these discussions includes some sort of retroactive measures. It isn’t unusual for these negotiation sessions to be mediated.
The Musicians Could Go On Strike
The musicians could go on strike, refusing to work during scheduled services until they ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. Until that point, musicians will typically engage in legal picketing and leafleting activities while their negotiating committee and management continue to negotiate. In San Antonio’s case, the musicians have already approved a strike if their negotiating committee decides it is the best course of action.
Management Could Lockout The Musicians
Management could withhold work from the musicians by physically barring them from the workplace until both sides agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. During a lockout, musicians may engage in the same sort of legal picketing and leafleting activities available to them if they went on strike; as such, it is quite common for the media and general public to confuse a lockout with a strike. Regardless, the end result is usually the same for patrons: no concerts.
As for now, the San Antonio Symphony musicians have decided to spend the final days of their contract engaged in what they defined in a recent Press Release as “exercising their right to freedom of speech to get their message out to the public” by conducting informational picketing in front of the Majestic Theater (their primary performance venue). According to the Press Release, the musicians “can be found with picket signs that say “Support the Symphony Musicians” and “Stand With the Musicians” between the hours of 1:00p.m. – 3:00p.m. CT.