On March 3, the New York City Ballet Orchestra ratified a new three-year agreement retroactive from Labor Day 2005 through Aug. 31, 2008.
“In these difficult times we got a pretty good settlement,” said Bob Biddlecome, bass trombonist in the orchestra and chair of the committee. “We got increases in wages and pension. The employer tried to pass along hospitalization costs to musicians, but we were able to avoid this happening.”
Negotiations lasted approximately ten months. Here are some highlights of the agreement:
- Wages (which were $1,700 per week in the previous contract) will now pay $1,725 for the first 13 weeks and $1,750 for the second 13 weeks. In the second year of the contract, these numbers increase to $1,775 and $1,800. In the third, $1,825 and $1,850.
- Rehearsal pay (which was $58 per hour) will now be $60 in the first year, $62 in the second and $63 in the third.
- The string premium (which was $25 per week) will now pay $40.
- Pension (which was 13.5 percent) increases to 14 percent in the spring of 2008.
- Domestic partners will be treated as spouses for coverage under the Blue Cross plan.
- Transit checks or a qualified parking plan will be added to the available benefits under the company’s flexible spending account.
There are also new provisions for attendance which help to relax slightly the section minimums and linkage rules for “new” and “designated” ballets.
On tour, the work week will be seven consecutive days, one of which will be the designated day off. The company may shift the day off by one day to accommodate the needs of the tour. Also, the company may call for seven straight work days, with three provisions: it may happen only once per year, one of the seven days must be a travel day, and there will be not more than ten services within the seven days.
With regard to entry into the basic orchestra, the use of trialists is limited to two weeks or fourteen days, whichever occurs first, for any and all trialists combined. In string sections, trialists may be engaged for title chair positions only.
An option for peer review committee appeal of non-renewals for musical reasons was agreed on. The decision of the music director may be appealed by the musician either through the grievance and arbitration procedure set forth in the contract or to a peer review committee. If the musician opts for peer review, and the committee disagrees with the music director, the musician will be retained in his or her former position for another full season. If the music director feels the musician has not improved after this full season, a second notice of non-renewal may be issued. If the peer review committee rejects the music director’s second notice, the employer may appeal the decision through a grievance and arbitration procedure. Arbitration will determine only whether the musician has been afforded timely notice of the music director’s dissatisfaction with his or her musical performance, an adequate opportunity to satisfy the music director’s concerns, and whether or not the music director’s decision was made in good faith. If an arbitrator’s final decision is for reinstatement, no new dismissal action against said musician may be initiated during the ensuing three years, except for cause.
With regard to rotation players, the limitation of a maximum of an average of six shows per week has been removed. Also, available work due to temporary vacancies of one-half of a season or less will be offered to all eligible rotation players on a per-service basis before any other musician is hired.
Negotiations were long and complex. The ratification was not without controversy; however, the committee felt it was the best that could be achieved at this time. Members of the negotiating team were Bob Biddlecome (chair), Sara Cutler, Conway Kuo, Eugene Moye and Ethan Silverman. Also on the team were 802 President David Lennon, Financial Vice-President Jay Blumenthal, and 802 Counsel Leonard Leibowitz.