ISO, musicians still far apart in negotiations

August 30, 2012

Union representatives for Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians are spilling more details about negotiations with ISO management, which is planning major structural changes to address the orchestra's ongoing financial issues.

The ISO, one of only 17 full-time orchestras in the nation, is proposing shifting to part-time status as part of a plan to address the longstanding problems.

Proposals have changed slightly since Tuesday, when IBJ first reported on the ISO’s proposed cutbacks, but the sides are still far apart on the big issues.

According to a blog launched by the musicians Thursday morning to provide updates on contract negotiations, ISO management wants to take the following cost-cutting measures:

- Reduce the ISO schedule from 52 weeks a year to 38 weeks.

- Reduce the 87 musicians to 63. Fourteen would be terminated, effective Monday.

- Cut annual salaries 41.5 percent.

- Change retirement benefits from pensions to 403(b) contribution plans.

The musician's union said it is willing to take a 13.9-percent pay cut and 14 weeks of unpaid furloughs over the contract’s five years, the blog says. It says those concessions amount to $3.8 million over the contract.

Negotiators have until Sunday night to reach a consensus on musicians’ contracts before the collective bargaining agreements expire on Labor Day.

Rick Graef, chairman of the union's negotiating committee, said both sides seemed intent on meeting the deadline, but they are especially held up on the schedule of cutbacks and layoffs.

The ISO said it won’t comment on the discussions until there is an agreement.

Administrators have asked for the concessions as the organization has tried to correct ongoing financial issues. The past three fiscal years have finished with million-dollar deficits.

If negotiators reach their deadline with no agreement, they can either agree to extend the current contract until there is a deal or they can declare an impasse.

Both sides have said they hope to reach an agreement.

"We're still negotiating. We're still in good faith at the table," Graef said. "... We're still hoping it will happen, but time's running out."


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