How About That; A New Contract Without Drama

In an age when contentious labor disputes abound, it’s nice to run across a situation where stakeholders reached an agreement without resorting to public mudslinging. Case in point, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) announced they reached a new four year agreement 14 months ahead of the current contract’s expiration date.

shake handsThe agreement itself is interesting in how unexceptional the terms are; in the age of new models, it’s almost quaint in its conventionalism. There are no huge cuts, no sweeping austerity measures, and no one got rid of tenure. Instead, the new agreement provides slight increases in base compensation and pension contributions along with a modest work rule adjustment that provides for scheduling additional concerts.

Here are the agreement highlights (as reported in an SLSO press release):

  • Compensation increases: 0%, 1.0%, 2.0%, and 2.0%.
  • 1.5% increase in pension contribution rate over the term of the new agreement.
  • Work-rule changes that provide for scheduling additional concerts including Live at Powell Hall events.

The organization is presenting the agreement’s stability as a selling point for donors and philanthropic giving. And after a steady diet of pure capsicum extract infused cinnamon cayenne ice cream, folks may be lining up for a nice scoop of refreshing vanilla.

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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0 thoughts on “How About That; A New Contract Without Drama”

  1. “Work-rule changes that provide for scheduling additional concerts including Live at Powell Hall events”. Is there some place I can read more about this term?

  2. What?! No serious orchestra would negotiate a contract with such a lack of publicly aired acrimony these days. This is why SLSO will never be top tier ensemble. The administration needs to be willing to destroy the organization in order to save it.

  3. Actually, I remember the tense situation SLSO went through back in 2005, including the thank you concert musicians gave in response to the community support. So I was really quite happy to read things came off so well this time around.

  4. I was on the committee, and it did take a lot of work…and some tense moments. Glad it’s over. Morale is pretty good here, given all our challenges. The orchestra took its financial hit ten years ago, and so was better prepared for this latest downturn.

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