The work stoppage at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) took an unusual turn on 10/1/2012 when the orchestra’s board turned verbal provisions into a written offer with a deadline for musician acceptance of Saturday, 10/6/12 at 6:00pm ET. At first glance, it appears that the offer provided substantial increases over the previous offer by providing sizeable backloaded improvements.
For example, the ISO website provides the following comparison to the current offer and the previous offer from 8/30/12:
However, the deal-breaker in this case is a contingency clause that allows either side to opt out of the agreement and re-enter bargaining at the end of the second year.
In essence, this means the agreement is really two years and everything thereafter is contingent on both parties agreeing to move forward. Without seeing the actual escape clause language, any additional details are, at best, speculative.
An additional change from previous offers include offering new hires a defined contribution pension plan while current members continue to receive the existing defined benefit plan.
Moreover, the offer contains a somewhat confusing element in that management asserts it will actually increase the orchestra size by two positions, up to 74; however, the expired agreement required 87 musicians although a clause provided flexibility by temporarily lowering that number to 79 through the end of agreement’s term. Consequently, a discrepancy of anywhere from seven to fifteen musicians exists.
ISO musician spokesperson and ISO Assistant Principal/Utility Horn Richard Graef was excerpted in the 10/2/2012 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal in an article by Dan Human stating that the musicians have already rejected the offer in principle due to the termination clause, which they declined in previous bargaining sessions.
“The ‘contract termination clause’ makes it impossible for us to agree to the Society’s ‘we win-you lose’ proposal,” said Graef in a prepared statement. “It establishes a situation in which [management] has no incentive to raise the funds, and every incentive not to do so and then pay the musicians less.”
However, in an effort to perhaps sweeten the deal, the ISO included a retroactive clause that would pay musicians at the Year 1 rate for the time they have been locked out.
The ISO is expected to announce additional concert cancellations if the musicians reject the offer by the prescribed deadline. Additionally, the ISO continues to claim that the musicians have been unwilling to schedule bargaining sessions in a timely manner, and that failure to accommodate was the impetus for the latest official offer.
Update: the Indianapolis Star has additional information via an article by Jay Harvey.