Expect More Cancellations In Atlanta

After three weeks of mediated negotiations, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO)/Woodruff Arts Center (WAC) are no closer to an agreement with their musicians than before they locked them out on 9/7/2014. According to an article by Jenny Jarvie in the 10/24/2014 edition of ArtsAtl.com, the WAC remains firmly entrenched, failing to modify their previous offer while a press statement from the musicians indicates that have offered concessions from previous proposals on health care benefits and salary.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-153Currently, talks have broken down following the WAC’s decision to attach a deadline for the musicians to accept their unaltered offer by 4:00pm ET, today, 10/27/2014. If the musicians fail to accept the offer, which is all but assured at this point, WAC president and CEO Virginia Hepner made it clear in an email to the WAC’s board that they will cancel more ASO events. Although no specific time frame was offered, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see the WAC cancel all remaining events through 12/31/2014 as this would provide some potential for them to book last-minute replacement acts during the lucrative holiday concert season.

The crux of the issue continues to focus on whether or not the WAC will secure the right to determine the number of employed musicians as opposed to following the industry standard of specifying minimum numbers of musicians employed.

Removing this provision would provide the employer an continuing tool to control labor costs by leaving vacancies unfilled with salaried musicians and instead, hiring temporary musicians, commonly referred to as substitutes. From an academic perspective, securing this level of control would make any potential wage and/or benefit concessions from the employer in this agreement or future agreements economically moot in that any increased wage or benefit expense could be mitigated by replacing one or more salaried musician billets with substitute musicians or programming works that use fewer musicians.

The musicians’ latest four year proposal included a defined minimum number of 77 musicians during the first two years, 85 by the end of the third year, and 89 by the end of the fourth.

[ilink url=”http://adaptistration.com/wp-content/uploads/2014-6th-ASOPA-Proposal-October-23-2014.pdf” style=”download”]Download a copy of the musicians’ 10/23/2014 offer.[/ilink]

In related news, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), which represents the ASO musicians, placed the WAC on their International Unfair List (AFM Unfair List, Defined). This move doesn’t come as a surprise and during prolonged work stoppages is often set in motion to indicate that any attempt to hire replacement workers, temporarily or permanently, will be met with delineated opposition. Consequently, if the WAC has any designs on filling the ASO’s venue with replacement holiday events (using AFM or non-AFM member artists), it should not come as a surprise to see a considerable amount of organized opposition from musicians and their supporters.

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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