ISO musicians agree to three-year contract with pay hike

September 16, 2016

Musicians in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have agreed to a new three-year labor agreement that will raise their base compensation 9.3 percent over the length of the contract and boost orchestra employment from 74 to 76.

The contract, announced Friday morning, is the first labor agreement the musicians have approved since 2006 to contain an overall wage increase.

The last two agreements—a three-year deal reached in 2009 and five-year pact agreed to in 2012—contained pay cuts demanded by ISO management as it dealt with financial woes experienced in the wake of the Great Recession.

Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the ISO musicians, represented by Local 3 of the American Federation of Musicians, will see base compensation go from $70,000 in the 2016-17 season (the final year of their current contract) to $76,500 in the 2019-20 season.

The agreement also calls for the musicians to pay a bigger share for health care benefits because of rising insurance costs and addresses “scheduling issues to provide greater work relief,” the ISO said, without providing specifics.

The contract won’t change retirement benefits or the number of annual work weeks, the ISO said.

“The Board of Directors is delighted that an agreement was reached 14 months in advance of the current contract expiration,” said Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Board Chairman Vince Caponi in a written statement. “This agreement is a strong indication of the progress the ISO has made over the past four years.”

In 2009, the then-87-member orchestra accepted a 12-percent pay cut that was expected to save the struggling ISO $4 million over three years.

Three years later, however, the ISO was in the midst of a full-blown financial crisis brought on by shrinking donations, lower ticket sales and an endowment that took a hard hit from market woes during the recession.

A labor dispute between musicians and the ISO resulted in a month-long lockout and led to the cancellation of the first five shows of the 2012-13 season.

Musicians eventually agreed to a five-year contract that contained steep pay cuts and reduced the number of orchestra members from 87 to 74. Base pay was slashed 32 percent in the first year, from $78,000 to $53,000, and rose to $70,000 in the final contract year, a 10-percent pay cut from the final year of the previous pact.

“So much of the credit for this success goes to our musicians and the sacrifices they made back in 2012,” Caponi said. “We are grateful for the collaborative working relationship which made this early agreement possible.”
The ISO cited a “string of positive developments” for allowing it to afford the pay raises.

The orchestra has reported three straight years of budget surpluses that started in fiscal year 2013

Ticket sales have seen double-digit growth and fundraising has jumped more than 50 percent since 2012-13, the ISO said.

Finances also were boosted by a $10 million donation from the Lilly Endowment in November 2015.

“This new agreement is a result of the constructive and collaborative approach taken by ISO musicians and management, and our shared commitment to the future of this great orchestra,” ISO CEO Gary Ginstling said in written remarks. “The agreement sets the stage for a number of strategic initiatives to engage our audiences digitally as well as in the concert hall, enhance our profile regionally and nationally, and grow revenue to sustain the ISO for years to come.”


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