Late last spring, the Concert Department received a number of calls from musicians who had performed education engagements for the Queens Symphony Orchestra but had not been paid. The conversations indicated that the work had been done “off the books” and that many of the musicians were not part of the regular Queens roster. A further problem was revealed when a brass quintet composed of non-QSO personnel appeared at the symphony gala, despite the fact that the management had not offered the jobs to orchestra members. As a result of both incidents Local 802 filed a grievance against Queens Symphony Orchestra, charging multiple violations of the collective bargaining agreement.
As the union and committee continued to pursue the grievance, it became apparent that a significant volume of employment had been performed without regard to contract provisions. After initially trying to avoid dealing with the situation, management agreed to meet in late summer. From that point it became clear that the players’ representatives would face a difficult challenge – to arrive at a settlement which fairly compensated all musicians and impressed the seriousness of the violation upon management, without creating an economic burden so onerous that the Queens Symphony would be forced to close.
The settlement, which was reached in early January, provides for partial wage and benefit payments to musicians and holds the potential balance in abeyance. A total of $15,000 will be paid directly to musicians in the form of wages (for members of the orchestra who were denied employment) and penalties (to musicians who worked but had to wait for payment). Pension and health benefit payments totaling $6,500 will be made to the respective plans. The health benefit payments alone will qualify ten musicians for the Local 802 Health Benefits Plan for a six-month period. All payments will be made in installments between Jan. 31 and June 15, 2000. The musicians involved – primarily principal winds, brass and percussion – will begin receiving wages in early April. However, if there should be another violation of the first-call provisions of the contract before it expires in September 2001, the balance of any wages and benefits must be paid at full freelance scale rather than at public service scale, which was the basis for the settlement calculations.
The Orchestra Committee was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations and recommended the settlement to the Executive Board for approval. “I am encouraged that we were able to solve this situation in a cooperative manner,” said Committee Chair Andrew Seligson. “I hope it will establish a positive relationship between the musicians and management for the future.”
Although this is a final settlement agreement, there was some concern that the calculations may have been based upon incomplete information; therefore, the agreement contains a provision which allows the union to file grievances until June 1, 2000, for additional violations during the 1998-1999 season. Any musician who has reason to believe that he or she did work for the Queens Symphony between September 1998 and the present which was not reported to the union should call Mary Landolfi at (212) 245-4802, ext. 105, prior to June 1 with detailed information about the engagement. Information provided will be compared with the dates used in calculating settlement payments to determine if an additional claim should be made.