Another Ratified Contract

The 9/20/08 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article by Andrew Druckenbrod which examines a recently ratified three year long collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO). Although the agreement’s minutia is not yet available, the article touches on the most prominent issues such as contract length and base pay…With regard to those issues, the new PSO contract is something akin to ordering vanilla at Baskin-Robbins; three years in length and a three percent increase each year. However, given the past few PSO contracts (and subsequent re-openers) having a CBA that promotes an image of stability is actually quite exotic.

Ideally, the contract will provide the organization with a firm foundation to launch a successful start to their new music director’s tenure. Druckenbrod’s article touches on some of those issues, which due to the organization’s short-lived artistic trifecta model had to be worked out during negotiations.

One interesting observation is that during a time when most of the biggest budget ensembles seem to be making strides toward increases in base compensation that exceed three percent (details), the orchestras right below that compensation tier are not matching pace at the same rate (details). It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on each respective orchestra’s ability to maintain the sort of artistic activity that distinguishes one group from another and whether any ensembles in the third compensation tier move into Pittsburgh’s neighborhood.

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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