Just because the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO) collective bargaining agreement has expired and the deadline set by management to reach an agreement or risk cutting musician benefits has passed doesn’t mean anything has happened. In fact, there’s a good bit of ambiguity going on right now, but here’s what you need to know.
1) No news is no news.
On Sunday, 8/26/2012 the ASO posted a brief message at their website stating that “While the current contract between the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Federation of Musicians expired on August 25, 2012, both parties are continuing to work towards a solution. Negotiations are ongoing.”
Strictly speaking, negotiations continue even during a work stoppage so that statement isn’t an indication of a work stoppage nor is it indicating any sort of official play and talk arrangement.
2) Equally vague, yet identical, musician response.
When asked for details, musician spokesperson and ASO principal trombonist Colin Williams provided the exact same reply as was posted at the ASO website “While the current contract between the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Federation of Musicians has expired, both parties are continuing to work towards a solution. Negotiations are ongoing.”
On the glass half full side of things, this could indicate that the statement was agreed upon in advance by both parties and that could be a potentially good sign that bargaining continues in earnest.
3) So much for artificial deadlines.
Although the master agreement may have expired, a far more tactile deadline is in the form of the first scheduled orchestra service. Consequently, it isn’t in either side’s best interests to initiate a work stoppage unless they arrive at that date without an agreement or a play and talk accord.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean either side can’t initiate a work stoppage before then, but barring something like a catastrophic cash flow bottleneck or renewal dates imposed by health benefit providers it doesn’t make much sense from a negotiating standpoint. Simply put, there’s no real leverage to gain.
4) So when is the date for the first scheduled service?
I sent inquiries to the ASO and the musician spokesperson asking when the date and starting time for the first scheduled service that musicians are required to attend, but at the time this article was published both representatives have simply repeated the statement above.
For more information and a useful overview of events to date, take a moment to read the article by Ernie Suggs published in the 8/26/2012 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In the meantime, stay tuned; an update will posted if anything substantial transpires.