Charleston Musicians Reject Latest Contract Offer

Since cancelling the end of their 2009/10 series, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has been negotiating with their musicians with the goal of securing an interim collective bargaining agreement while the organization engages in what it calls a restructuring of its organizational and operating model. The latest waypoint in that process took place on 5/20/2010 when the Players Association of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (PACSO) voted down the CSO’s latest proposal…

According to a PACSO press release, the proposed interim operating agreement would cover the 2010/11 season and included an 80 percent reduction in annual base musician compensation to $3,600. Before suspending the 2009/10 season, the musicians accepted an 11.4 percent pay cut during the 2008/09 season which was followed by an additional 17.1 percent pay cut during the 2009/10 season.

Currently, the musicians have filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board against the CSO claiming that the season suspension is “an illegal lockout” along with what the musicians have described as “numerous violations of the National Labor Relations Act.”

Likewise, the musicians assert that none of their previous concessions included provisions to suspend operations nor did they include cancellation of health insurance and pension benefits. According to PACSO spokesperson and CSO Principal Percussionist Ryan Leveille, the musicians were notified via email on 4/9/2010 that health insurance coverage would be terminated on 4/30/2010.

In response to the musicians’ decision to reject the latest offer, Marty Klaper, chairman of the CSO board’s bargaining committee, reportedly told Post and Courier reporter Adam Parker that their latest proposal “would have provided musicians with 12 months of paid health care benefits plus a salary for services.”

As of now, the musicians do not plan on submitting a counterproposal due to the fact that the current collective bargaining agreement is still in effect and the National Labor Relations Board has yet to rule on their complaints.

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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