Indy Details

Following yesterday’s post, The Real Issue In Indianapolis, a number of readers wrote in asking about the actual negotiation terms currently proposed by both sides. I would caution anyone from getting too wrapped up in the details of terms at this point but here’s an overview of current proposals.

Keep in mind, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) management is currently abiding by a press blackout so all of the details about their offer have come from musician spokespersons. Nonetheless, those details have been reported throughout a few different outlets, most notably some excellent articles in the Indianapolis Star by Jay Harvey, as well as the musicians’ website:

  • Convert the defined benefit pension plan to a 403(B) contribution fund (the ISO is not part of the AFM-EPF and there was no information on a proposed transition process).
  • Move from a 52 week season to a 38 week season; which entails removing up to two pops concerts, up to six classical concerts, and half of the current summer performance schedule.
  • Reduce roster from 87 to 63 musicians via attrition plus 14 positions eliminated by September 3, 2012.
  • 41.5 percent decrease in annual salary (no word on the actual weekly compensation figure).

None of the reports mention any proposed changes (from musicians or management) to musician health care benefits, vacation weeks, electronic music guarantees, seniority pay, donated services for fundraising purposes, or other similar items.

At the time this article was published, there were no notices at the ISO website about negotiations while the musicians have been posting information about management offer at their website and Facebook page.

Although the musicians have been providing some details surrounding management’s proposals, they have not yet provided the same degree of detail surrounding their counter offers. At the time this article was published, the musicians have offered overviews that provide cumulative savings over the term of the proposed five year agreement, but no information about exact what sort of concessions will be offered to achieve those savings.

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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7 thoughts on “Indy Details”

    • Good question and the trend (at least over recent years) has been for management to launch a prepared PR campaign. Likewise, it is typical for musicians to offer at least a few details regarding their proposals. So from both of those perspectives, the situation at Indy is a bit unusual.

  1. Details are interesting and important, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees just yet. The issue is whether or not the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to fundamentally change. The local newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, does a fair job of framing the situation.

    65 or 63 musicians in the ensemble, or 38 weeks or 36 weeks on the contract, are similar to selecting options on your new Sentra for which you traded in your Maxima when you realized you could no longer afford the payments. The metaphorical issue is what kind of car is going to be parked outside the Hilbert Circle Theatre – not what kind of audio and trim packages it’s going to have.

    • That’s a helpful analogy Chuck and I would think that’s going to be the crux of the bargaining over the next several days and/or weeks. This is where the lack of information from either side makes this a comparatively unusual event. Typically, the board would present their rationale behind their proposals along with any accompanying documentation etc. but we’re not seeing that in this situation.

  2. It does not appear that the ISO administration effectively prepared the musicians or the community for the nature of these negotiations. Historically, both sides have abstained from discussing negotiations in the media. That’s my general recollection, and I think is supported by some of the things that happened over the last few months and are just now coming out (like the proposal to reduce the orchestra’s weeks at Symphony on the Prairie this summer). My guess is that the musicians were so taken aback by the initial offer that they thought it important to share it with the community via the media. To let the community know that these aren’t negotiations as usual, but a discussion about the fundamental nature of the institution. The musicians are behaving differently because the circumstances are very different. I think the administration is treating negotiations (other than the nature of what they are offering) as they would normally.

  3. Drew,

    There were some specific concessions offered by the musicians that were reported in this article.

    From the article:
    “The union and management both are seeking five-year contracts. Graef said musicians would accept a 12.6-percent pay cut in the first year and a pay freeze the second year, with partial restorations the following three years. The contract would finish with pay 1 percent below its current level.

    Performers also would take 14 weeks of furloughs over the five years, under the union’s proposal.”

    • Thanks for posting all of that Rob; I recall reading that IBJ article and seeing articles at other media outlets at the same time and in the latter, they were referring to those cuts as what the musicians agreed to in the previous contract (the one that just expired). Similarly, the other articles didn’t mention anything about the furloughs which added to my curiosity over whether there was some miscommunication happening.

      If nothing else, it’s a good example behind why it is beneficial to post proposal details via an official news outlet, such as the players’ website and/or Facebook page.

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