ISO, musicians still far apart in negotiations

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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."


  • since I moved here
    I have seen so much that attracted me to Indy go down hill. Just look at the shabby condition of the Indy Parks, which were great and still could/should be shining. Not that good things aren't happening, but these BIG and very visible downgrades portent nothing good. You know, some of us aren't impressed in the least that a huge football game came to town, but we are impressed with the orchestra and other extraordinary arts. Just this spring the IRT impressed my Washington DC visitors who said the Helen Keller play (Miracle Worker) rivaled anything they have seen at The Kennedy Center. Indy subsidizes spectator sports in many and expensive ways, but the arts are arguably even more important. Part time orchestra, what's that sports term, oh yeah, bush league.
  • I AGREE Mr.Evans
    I was born and raised in Indy,moved away pursuing my career which involved living in 4 other states and traveling to countless cities on business including NYC,LA,Houston,Miami,Chicago,and Charlotte. I returned in 2006 when I retired. I was amazed at the growth and transformation that had taken place! When I left and folks asked me where I was from I sheepishly said ...Oh, Indianoplace.Laughter always followed. Yes...The Colts add a critical facet to our image and identity. But the Cultural transformation and all the work that made this a Beautiful City made me Proud. I have been honored to attend IRT,IMA,and the ISO. Concert on the Prairie rivals a similar venue in Northbrook (Chicago). You have to look at ISO in the context of what the Total Value Added is to the citizens and to the City of Indianapolis and how it enables us to compete with other Cities for new business and investment. Can you imagine an Indianapolis Business Development team meeting with a major corporation evaluating Indianapolis as a potential site for their new corporate headquarters.....and we say...."Ohhh...uhhh...and we USED to have an Orchestra.." I also believe Mr.Evans touched on a critical factor that must be addressed. This organization must be Marketed, Advertised, Promoted and continuously developed. Do you have a Strategic Business Development Plan ? Have you asked for the input of all the stakeholders ? Have you asked for the Citizens input?....I have worked with Executive Teams of Fortune 200 companies throughout my career. I have learned the painful truth that any mediocre executive can chop heads and slash costs. Only Leaders can Build Powerful Organizations
  • Where does "Happy" go on my balance sheet?
    A question for John R Thornburgh, Ice-Miller, the ISO Board Chairman. Where do "happy" and "opportunity costs" and "indirect revenue" and the value of a city's stature go on my balance sheet? Just wondering. I own a small company, we give our team the two weeks before Christmas off to maybe work from home and be with their families. Wreaks havoc with my P & L and my balance sheet...but it brings immeasurable value to my little company (Four of us are working this weekend on an RFP for a new project...money can't buy that, I'm sorry). True "value" can't be measured the way you're trying to measure the value of the Indianapolis Symphony to the city and its residents. In addition to its absolute necessity as part of the Indy art scene and Indianapolis' and Indiana's stature as real places to live and do business (the value of which you can't measure with any algorithm that I know of), the ISO is part of an arts-centered industry that brings $386 million dollars a year to Indianapolis (and more than double that to the State of Indiana). So before you cut off your feet to save money on shoes, I suggest you look at the value of the ISO to this city and this state that can't be measured by you and your bean counters. The bottom line looks a lot better from there, though it does take some imagination to see it. Fact is, you're trying to cut ten million dollars from a budget that only requires about three million to be cut...$3.8 million of which the ISO musicians have offered by way of concessions and furloughs. One final, frank question: how does someone get a board position on a major orchestra who so clearly doesn't understand what a major orchestra is, what it does or how it contributes to its community beyond the bottom line? We don't want to be Louisville, Buffalo, Columbus or Detroit who have tried your "solution" and found it lacking. Look to Pittsburgh. Look to Cleveland. And then get YOUR act together. This symphony has been mismanaged for decades, the marketing has been abysmal, there is no Development department, there is no CEO at present, there is no Marketing Director and there's effectively been no Music Director since Maestro Leppard. To say that the musicians have to bear the brunt of this is ludicrous and Indianapolis and its symphony deserve better from you and yours.

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