Grievance Corner

Volume CI, No. 6June, 2001


On March 1, arbitrator Maurice Benewitz issued a decision in the dispute over orchestra staff minimums involving the Broadway production Saturday Night Fever. Before the show opened at the Minskoff Theatre the producers, Niko Associates, had requested – and been denied – Special Situation status from Local 802. After having that denial upheld by the arbitration panel created under the contract, Niko filled out the minimum by designating six already-engaged cast members as musicians, and claiming their cast salaries as musician wages.

Local 802 grieved this, arguing that the minimum number in the contract – 24 in this case – required that 24 musicians’ salaries be paid independent of any other payment.

Arbitrator Benewitz, while implying that the employer may have “killed two birds with one stone,” found that no specific provision of the contract had been violated, and denied the grievance.

As a result of this decision the union, which had not claimed jurisdiction for the six and had returned their work dues, has now claimed that, as musicians, they were improperly paid. The six were given small electronic keyboards (even though several could not play them at all) and are, therefore, entitled to the 25 percent electronic instrument premium in the agreement. For reasons not clearly stated, the six were paid the equivalent of one double, or a 12½ percent premium.