Arts and Humanities Local News

Audio: Musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Discusses Orchestra Impasse

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.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Birman Discusses Orchestra Impasse

The already contentious talks between the Louisville Orchestra management and musicians have hit another snag. The musicians and management have rejected each other’s offers for a contract for the next five years, and neither side is eager to make further compromises.

Their dispute comes down to ten musicians and three weeks. The management says the city can only support an orchestra of 50 or so players for 30 weeks a year. The musicians want up to 60 musicians for 33 weeks.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard talked with orchestra CEO Robert Birman about the orchestra’s future, and what the dispute means for the audience.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Louisville Orchestra Musicians Reject Contract Offer, Say Counter Offer Also Rejected

The Louisville Orchestra musicians and management have each rejected offers for a contract for the coming seasons, according to a statement from the players.

On Monday, the musicians voted down a proposal that—according to documents obtained by WFPL—would have cut the orchestra from 71 to 50 full time musicians who would play for 30 weeks, rather than the current 37. Their pay would remain $925 a week. Over the next five years, the proposal would allow the number of players and the pay to increase, depending on the ensemble’s finances.

The musicians countered with an offer to keep 57 full-time musicians, then add three more in a year and increase the season length from 30 to 33. In a statement released Monday, the musicians say the management’s attorney rejected that offer.

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Orchestra Musicians Voting on New Contract Today

The musicians of the Louisville Orchestra are voting today on a contract for the current and upcoming seasons.

The musicians and management have been at odds over the contract for months, and the impasse has resulted in the cancellation of three months of concerts. The management had previously pushed for a tiered system, with musicians signing contracts for 10, 20 or 30 weeks. The musicians countered with a proposal to cut the number of full-time players from 71 to 60 and the season length from 37 to 35 weeks.

The management had insisted on a tiered contract, saying it was the only affordable option after emerging from Chapter 11. But sources close to the deal tell WFPL the proposal being voted on today calls for 50 full-time players at the current pay rate for 30 weeks each season. It allows for more musicians and higher salaries to be added over the next five seasons. The contract will expire in 2017.

The deadline for the cancellation of December concerts is looming, and the voting on the contract will close today. If the contract is approved, the orchestra season would continue.

The contract also increases the maximum temperature under which musicians can perform and cuts the number of portable toilets the management must provide at outdoor concerts.

Both sides are under a press blackout and have declined to comment.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Opera and Musicians Agree on Carmen Performance Contract

The Kentucky Opera and the local musicians union have reached an agreement for this month’s performances of Carmen.

Musicians from the Louisville Orchestra typically accompany the opera, but the musicians are at am impasse with orchestra management over a contract for the next season. Orchestra concerts have been canceled through November.

The agreement secures 51 players for three performances of Carmen later this month. Opera General Director David Roth says both sides had to make sacrifices due to the lack of an orchestra contract.

“The Louisville Orchestra gives us a discount to be the resident company of Kentucky Opera,” he says. “Without the Louisville Orchestra, we have to then absorb those additional costs.”

Both sides will soon discuss a similar agreement for November’s performances of The Marriage of Figaro.

“Now that it is official we will have to sit down and look at an agreement for The Marriage of Figaro and negotiate, if it’s possible, negotiate for our services that we need for the Marriage of Figaro coming up in November,” says Roth.

“I would expect the negotiations will go smoothly,” says musicians committee chair Kim Tichenor. “If the negotiations we had this past week are any indication, we should be able to reach an agreement quickly.”

The contract is awaiting approval from the musicians and the opera’s board. Tichenor expects quick approval and smooth negotiations for future performances.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Likely to Decide on November Concerts This Week

Louisville Orchestra management is expected make two decisions regarding its ongoing labor dispute this week.

After months of talks with no agreement, Mayor Greg Fischer joined contract negotiations with the management and musicians. Last week, he announced that an anonymous donor had come forward to pay for a nationally-recognized consultant to work with mediators. The mayor is encouraging both sides to welcome the help.

Orchestra CEO Robert Birman says the management will decide this week whether to accept the offer. The musicians had previously sought to bring in an outside expert, but Birman says the management turned down the proposal.

“Cost was a consideration,” he says. “Other considerations were the fact that we have a lot of expertise at the table already between the musicians, the board and the staff. And we’ve had many people from all over this country with extensive knowledge of the industry that have already inserted themselves in the process.”

The chair of the musicians committee welcomed the donation.

Orchestra management will also decide this week whether more concerts need to be called off. Performances for this month and next month were canceled due to the lack of a contract, and a 60-day notice must be given for further cancellations.

“In a sense it’s a rolling deadline,” says Birman. “It varies month to month based on the date of the first rehearsal for each month. We don’t think of it as a hard and fast deadline for external purposes.”

The management has sought to establish a tiered system, where musicians would be signed to contracts ranging in length from 10 to 30 weeks. The musicians have countered with an offer to cut the number of full time players from 71 to 60 and to cut the season down to 35 weeks. The number of musicians would then be increased in subsequent seasons.

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Director Expects Agreement on Opera Musicians Today

An agreement between the Louisville musicians union and the Kentucky Opera for upcoming performances could be in place today.

The opera typically hires musicians from the Louisville Orchestra, but orchestra management and players do not currently have a contract in place for the season. Orchestra concerts for this month and next month have been canceled.

The opera has been in talks with the union for several days to secure live musicians for performances on the 23rd and 25th and for rehearsals that must begin on the 12th. General Director David Roth says those talks have gone smoothly and he expects to secure an agreement for 45 musicians today.

“The negotiations that we needed for this were held directly with the union as an independent organization and independent of any ongoing negotiations between the Louisville Orchestra and its musicians,” he says. “There might be a few T’s to cross and I’s to dot by Monday, but we’re fairly confident we’ll get that contract in hand from the union and that’ll allow us to go ahead and start contracting individual musicians for the Kentucky Opera Orchestra for Carmen.”

Due to demand for tickets, the opera has added a third performance of Carmen on the 30th.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Two Months of Orchestra Concerts Called Off

All Louisville Orchestra concerts scheduled for September and October have been canceled.

The season was set to begin September 10. But orchestra management sent out a notice of the cancellations Wednesday evening, citing an impasse with the musicians over a contract for the next season. The two sides are in mediation with the Louisville Labor Management Committee and will meet with Mayor Greg Fischer later this week to try to work out a deal.

“I think we’re on the verge of a collapse in our arts community,” says musicians committee chair Kim Tichenor. “As it is right now, the orchestra plays for the ballet and the opera. We have musicians who are leaving town and that affects the whole community.”

In the meantime, the national musicians union has effectively blocked any members from playing without a contract. Tichenor says the musicians have offered to simply extend their previous contract until a new deal could be reached, but the proposal was rejected.

In the statement announcing the cancellations, Orchestra CEO Rob Birman said the musicians turned down an offer to be paid their previous wages of $925 a week for the next season.

“That is a highly competitive wage for any professional musician in the United States,” he said.

But Tichenor says that’s misleading, as the length of the contracts would be altered as part of a tiered plan that hired musicians only for certain concerts

“People are being asked to go from 37 weeks down to 10 weeks. Some musicians are being asked to take that large of a pay cut. Going from $34,000 a year to $9,000 a year with a huge cut in benefits along to go with it is not a competitive wage.”

Not all musicians play in every concert and Birman previously told WFPL News the orchestra could not afford to pay all of the musicians for the entire season.

Local News

“Unfair” Listing Won’t Change Orchestra Contract Talks as Season Approaches, Says Birman

The management and musicians of the Louisville Orchestra have been in talks for the next season’s contract for about a year, but as deadlines approach, no agreement is in place.

The first concert is scheduled for September 10, and rehearsals are supposed to start the week prior. But unless a contract is in place, the musicians can’t play. That’s because the Louisville Orchestra has joined Wayne Newtown and the Richardson Symphony in Texas on the America Federation of Musicians “unfair list.”

The AFM added the orchestra to the list this week. Any union members who play could face potentially career-ending punishments or fines.

“I don’t think there is a large cadre of non-union players waiting to come work for the Louisville Orchestra,” says union president Ray Hair. “Certainly the kind of skill and experience that union musicians bring to the table is not available.”

Hair says Orchestra CEO Rob Birman had hinted that the orchestra could hire nonunion musicians to play concerns. Birman says he hasn’t and the unfair listing is a tactic in the labor talks and won’t affect the tone or urgency of the negotiations at all.

“The negotiations have only one fruitful outcome, and that would be an agreement,” he says. “What we need is our musicians to return to work and to come to the table and to put a serious proposal on the table.”

Hair says the listing is meant to encourage the management to put forward a reasonable offer for a new contract. The musicians have rejected a proposal to cut the orchestra’s size and season length.

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Union Puts Orchestra on “Unfair List”

The Louisville Orchestra is now on the American Federation of Musicians’ “Unfair list.”

This  morning, the union sent out a statement blasting Orchestra CEO Robert Birman for saying the orchestra could consider hiring non-union musicians to play concerts while labor talks for the regular musicians continue.

There is currently no contract in place. The management and musicians are both in talks with the Louisville Labor Management Committee acting as mediators. Last week, a bankruptcy judge approved the orchestra’s reorganization plan. After the hearing, both sides of the labor dispute said they believed a new contract could be in place by the September 10th start to the next season.

The musicians previously rejected the management’s offer to separate the players into tiers and hire each tier for a different length of time.

Union members who play for ensembles on the list face potential fines and punishment.

A representative for the union was not immediately available for comment