Audio: Musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Discusses Orchestra Impasse

by Gabe Bullard on October 7, 2011

The musicians of the Louisville Orchestra have turned down a contract offer put together by the mediator of the orchestra’s labor dispute. The offer fell between two previous proposals and called for the orchestra to be cut from 71 to 54 players, with one more to be added later.

Hours after the decision, orchestra management released a statement. It outlined the management’s previous offer, which was to have a 50 member orchestra for 30 weeks  in each season. It further mentioned both sides’ work with nationally-known consultant Ralph Craviso, who was hired with an anonymous grant secured by Mayor Greg Fischer. The statement concluded with:

“We appreciate the mediator’s work in attempting to help the parties reach an agreement, and the Orchestra thanks the Mayor for his efforts and resources devoted to assist in our process,” said [board chair Charles] Maisch. “This offer represents a cost limit that our board cannot agree to exceed.”

Maisch said the board now faces a challenging alternative to ensure the survival of the Louisville Orchestra.

But Henri Mangeot with the Louisville Labor Management Committee, who has been mediating the dispute, says talks will continue and Craviso remains involved.

“I don’t give up easily,” he told WFPL Thursday evening.

The musicians countered the management’s offer earlier this week with a plan that called for 57 players for a 30 week season at first, then an increase to 60 musicians for 33 weeks. The players say the plan would keep all of the musicians who have not left Louisville in search of other work.

“The income and revenue of the orchestra is going to have to increase. There’s no question about that,” says Mangeot. “They’re going to have to find some revenue source or sources if they’re going to get to the point where the players are satisfied that they’re not reducing jobs.”

The musicians say management previously threatened to find other musicians to play in the orchestra. That would be a difficult task, however, since the orchestra is on the American Federation of Musicians’ “unfair list.” Any union members who play for the orchestra would face potentially career-ending punishments. Further, Louisville is not home to a large number of freelance musicians, and many potential replacements are students.

Orchestra CEO Robert Birman told WFPL earlier this week that the management would have to begin exploring different options if the dispute continued for too long. He said the orchestra was at risk of losing its audience.

Musicians’ negotiating committee chair Kim Tichenor says the ensemble’s relevance is key. She spoke with WFPL Thursday about the impasse, the potential for starting a new orchestra, and what’s next for the players, who have been out of work since their previous contract ended in May.

Audio MP3

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