Monday, September 8, 2014

Lockout at Atlanta Symphony

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have failed to reach agreement on a new contract, resulting in what the musicians are calling a lockout. They will not receive salaries until a new contract is agreed upon, and the orchestra’s management says the 2014-15 season, scheduled to begin on Sept. 25, may be delayed.

Management, citing “12 consecutive years of deficit operations” and an accumulated debt of about $5 million, offered musicians a 4.5 percent raise over the course of a new contract and a 22 percent share of any budget surplus, but called on musicians to pay more for health insurance and agree to concessions to management in “determining how and when vacancies [in] the orchestra are filled in order to balance the artistic and financial needs of the orchestra.”

The New York Times Michael Cooper reported on Sept. 5 that the Atlanta Symphony’s music director, Robert Spano, and principal guest conductor, Donald Runnicles, took the unusual step of writing to the orchestra board and management, asking them “to acknowledge the sacrifice the musicians have already made, and to examine other ways and areas to establish sustainability.” Their letter apparently had no effect.

Musicians, who absorbed wage concessions under the 2012-14 contract that expired Sept. 6, say that ASO management and Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center, under whose umbrella the orchestra operates, have “displayed no willingness to find a workable agreement,” insisting on a “ ‘last, best, and final offer,’ under which the musicians would continue to hemorrhage income and lose orchestra positions.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes statements from both sides: