ISO asking for fewer concessions, sets Saturday deadline

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Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra executives have given musicians until 6 p.m. Saturday to decide on a contract offer that asks for significantly fewer concessions than previous proposals.

Musicians, however, are balking at a an escape clause in the deal that would let either side out of the five-year contract after three years.

The symphony and the musicians are in a labor dispute that led to musicians being locked out Sept. 8 and all scheduled performances since that time being canceled.

Under the new offer, the ISO still would cut a few weeks out of the performance season and reduce musicians’ pay. But the cutbacks are less severe than the plans negotiators revealed in August, according to details ISO management released late Monday.

The ISO said it would have to substantially increase fundraising efforts to pay for the new proposal.

“The August 30 offer was predicated on substantial fundraising and revenue goals that the ISO was committed to stretch to achieve,” ISO management said in its Monday night statement. “This offer is well beyond that stretch."

In the first year of the proposed five-year deal, musicians’ minimum annual pay would drop by about one-third, to $53,000 from $78,000, then rise each year until it hits $70,000 by the fifth year.

In an an Aug. 30 proposal, the ISO sought a pay cut the first year to $46,170 and an increase to $47,500 by the contract’s end.

The pay cut would come from reducing the number of weeks musicians are paid for every year.

Currently, the orchestra receives 52 weeks of pay and performs 45.5 weeks a year. Management’s latest proposal calls for 38 to 42 weeks of performances with musicians only receiving pay for those weeks.

Weekly pay would increase to $1,667 from $1,500, the ISO noted.

The orchestra would have 74 musicians under the proposed contract. The ensemble currently has 72 performers, the organization said. The previous contract, signed in 2009, calls for 87 total positions.

Management has written a clause into its proposal that would allow either side to terminate the agreement after the third year.

Richard Graef, chairman of the union’s negotiating committee, said the musicians had previously heard the terms in the new offer and turned them down due to the inclusion of the escape clause

“The ‘contract termination clause’ makes it impossible for us to agree to the Society's ‘we win-you lose’ proposal,” said Graef in a prepared statement. "It establishes a situation in which [management] has no incentive to raise the funds, and every incentive not to do so and then pay the musicians less.”

ISO management said it would reinstate salaries and health benefits back to Sept. 3 if the musicians agreed to the contract by Saturday's deadline.

“The ISO is willing to make this offer contingent on achieving a contract by Saturday to avoid further concert cancellations and the decline of community support if this dispute continues," the statement said. "The offer is contingent on additional funding.”

The organization, which has reported multimillion-dollar annual deficits since the recession, has cancelled the first four weeks of its season.

Some donors have expressed concerns about the symphony's future if it goes from full-time to part-time status. The ISO is one of only 17 full-time orchestras in the nation.

The ISO’s most recent proposal heavily relies on increasing donations.

Executives previously told IBJ they want to raise current donatiion levels of about $6.5 million annually by about $2.5 million per year, an increase of nearly 40 percent.

Managers and board directors now want to increase donations by 50 percent to 100 percent to make the latest contract proposal financially sustainable.

The group's goal is to bring in $9.8 million in the contract’s first year and reach $12.6 million—almost double the current average—by the fifth year.


  • Additional Information For Upcoming Concert!
    WATTS PLAYS BEETHOVEN. The Musicians of Your Indianapolis Symphony welcome Andre' Watts to The Palladium Sunday, October 7 at 7:00. Samuel Wong conducts Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto and Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition." If you want to hear for yourself what exactly it is that the myopic board and clueless ISO mismanagement teams are trying to ruin, click here for ticket information: http://www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets/production.aspx?PID=2048
  • Pre-existing condition
    Management asking for a termination clause is patently ridiculous and only compounds the insults their foisting on our symphony. Opt out clause for management? It's like an insurance policy for management and MANAGEMENT is the pre-existing condition!
  • Hold Your Horses....
    A musician making $75,000 a year, who hasn't had a raise since 2003, is being told they have to take a $25,000 a year - $25,000 a year! – pay cut because the people demanding the pay cut have screwed up the place. Oh, and there's no REAL need to take the pay cut right now...not for another 7 years really. Oh, and musicians in other symphonies worse off than yours are taking pay cuts that still earn them MORE than what you were making before your own befuddle management passed gas in the elevator and then got off leaving you with the stink? Sounds like a bad deal to me. Sounds like the people at the top need to go before any real solution can be found. I'm just sayin'.
  • A little progress, maybe.
    Some excellent points, if not a bit strident...lol. I do think this shows some progress but I don't think it's addressing the problem. Mr. Graef said it best...it's a "we win, you lose" proposition all the way. What are the chances the musicians see the 4th year of this deal after taking yet another 3 years of unreasonable cuts? None. Zero. Zippo. It also removes the responsibility of the board and management to get it's act together...which as so many have pointed out is so, so clearly the CAUSE of this situation in the first place. No need to beat that dead horse...it stinks too much. As for the "even this is a stretch" that's just so much bull. Do the math. There's $85 million in the endowment. Let's say $45 million of that is available for operating costs and not conditional to a particular concert series or other purpose. Symphony revenue is $15 million a year. The budget is $26 million. The short-term plan suggested by the musicians - and their independent financial consultant - would reduce draw $6 million a year from the $45 million or so available in the endowment (and keep in mind that this is a worst case scenario and assumes that management and market and etc. STAYS as bad as it's been the last 8 years). Divide $45 million by a $6 million annual draw...and you get 7.5 years of operating funds given current revenues AND CURRENT MISMANAGEMENT. You can do THAT math on your fingers. That doesn't say crisis to me...it says "crisis of convenince" sort of like the Iraq war. The board is using the opportunity to, like the other posters said, grab while the grabbing is good. But then, there are a lot of people ike the ISO board these days who are having problems with arithmetic so as to further some cockeyed agenda or another. Short term deal.Reasonable cuts. Bargaining in good faith on the part of the board and the ISO's beleaguered and clearly clueless mismanagement "team" of beancounters, cheerleaders and interns. That's all that is needed to get this done by Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday morning if John Thornburgh gets over himself.
  • You call this progress?
    The article says that management "added" the escape clause. Given the level to this point that the draconian board and inept management team have negotiated in bad faith, how much do you want to bet that this was unilaterally added retroactive to some kind of agreement in principal? Just wondering. Wouldn't put it past them. Which brings me to my next point...5 year deal? Are you kidding me? First of all, there's no way the musicians should accept anything longer than two years given the state of the board and the ISO management. No CEO. No marketing director. No fundraising director. The Bilby fiasco. Poor investments of the endowment money. A succession of absentee music directors. How on earth can the musicians be asked to effectively underwrite a long-term deal with a management and short-sighted board of inept beancounters that is the CAUSE of all the ISO's problems? A 30%-plus pay cut? Again, why are the musicians being called upon to underwrite a clueless and inept management junta? Especially when the only "fiscal" crisis is a figment of the board's imagination. The ISO can operate for 6 years under the current contract. This is just the board taking advantage of real crises in other cities to emulate draconian cuts and make a grab while the grabbing is good. These musicians are already the lowest paid of any full-time orchestra in America. They're already operating under $7 million of cuts imposed since their 2003 contract. If I'm them, I say...hey, we'll toss you a 5% bone, we'll freeze hiring and we'll do it for 2 years while you guys get your act together. Don't like it? Good luck selling Yuletide concerts with a cappella carolers.

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