Going on Tour? New Contract is Here

Volume CX, No. 2February, 2010

Mikael Elsila

Theatre musicians who play on union tours have a new two-year agreement. In mid-January, the latest version of the AFM’s Pamphlet B contract was ratified.

“These negotiations were extremely challenging given the worsening financial environment that we all experienced as 2009 progressed,” AFM Director of Touring Steve Gelfand told Allegro. “Although we were initially faced with a ‘no cost increases’ demand by the producers, we were finally able to negotiate some increases into this agreement along with some improved working conditions.”

The biggest gain the new contract is a whopping 35 percent increase in weekly health contributions over the life of the contract. The rate in the old contract was $88.91; now producers will pay $110 in the first year of the contract and $120 in the second. (These rates apply to full Pamphlet B tours. Health contributions under the “alternative touring agreement,” which applies to lower-tier shows, will pay $100.)

Also under the new agreement, producers of tours will be able to use up to 15 minutes of captured material for promotional purposes. In exchange, musicians will earn a new weekly payment equal to 1.5 percent of base scale, which rises to 2 percent on Aug. 30. This deal is similar to the one Local 802 negotiated with the Broadway League earlier this year.

Musicians also won an improvement in sick days. Instead of waiting 18 weeks to earn the first sick day, musicians will earn one after just 6 weeks of work.

Additionally, musicians will now earn one week of vacation every six months instead of one week after a year.

And, for the first time in the contract, musicians will be entitled to up to three days of paid bereavement leave.

Another gain is that per diem increases to $875 per week in the first year of the contract and $882 in the second. (The old rate was $868 per week.)

On the flip side of the negotiations, the biggest compromise the union was forced to make is that there are no wage increases for musicians, either in performance or rehearsal pay.

Another compromise involves the tier thresholds. It now may take longer for a given tour to bump up to the highest tier of the contract, which means that musicians may play under the lower tier of the contract for longer.

However, the union achieved a two-year contract instead of a three-year deal. This may benefit musicians if the economy improves soon, as a new contract will be renegotiated quicker.

“In spite of the tough economic climate, I feel like we made some great gains in areas that are sometimes overlooked but are very important to musicians who live and work on the road,” Danny Percefull told Allegro. Percefull, a Local 802 member, recently came off of a year on the road playing piano on “A Chorus Line.” He assisted the union in the negotiations.

Percefull added, “It was tough to accept a wage freeze, and it was difficult to take that part of the new contract back to my colleagues, but we really tried to focus on the quality of life issues that we improved – and we improved them a lot.”

Local 802 member Andy Blanco, who plays percussion on a tour of “The Color Purple,” also participated in the negotiations. He told Allegro, “Under the circumstances of this terrible economic environment, we were able to gain some ground with the health contributions, time off and a modest wage increase from the new media package.”

Blanco added, “Overall, I’m pleased with the outcome.”

The AFM’s Steve Gelfand said, “While Broadway musicians are able to take off with relative ease, touring musicians do not get much opportunity to get time off. Going into this negotiation, sick days, vacation and bereavement leave were main issues for our travelers.”

Highlights of the new Pamhplet B contract

  • Big increase in health contributions: from $88.91 in the old contract to $120 by the end of the new contract

  • Media payment similar to Broadway agreement: musicians will earn a weekly payment of 1.5 percent, which rises to 2 percent in the second year

  • Musicians earn one sick day after just 6 weeks of work, as opposed to waiting 18 weeks under the old contract

  • Paid bereavement leave for the first time

  • Per diem rises to $882 per week by the end of the contract, up from the current $868

  • Musicians earn one week of vacation every six months instead of one week after a year