Major Freelance Orchestras Conclude Negotiations

Volume CV, No. 6June, 2005

Jay Blumenthal

In a flurry of activity, nearly all the remaining major freelance orchestras have reached tentative agreements with Local 802. Those orchestras are the American Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Riverside Symphony and Bronx Arts Ensemble.

As Allegro goes to press, Queens Symphony has agreed in principle to the same terms but remains unsigned, pending the finalization of some language for their memorandum of agreement.

All of the orchestras who concluded the negotiations have agreed to the same economic terms as that set by the New York Pops. (Those terms were printed in January’s Allegro.)

Also, the agreements are each for three-year terms, except for St. Luke’s, which signed a four-year deal, as reported in last month’s Allegro.

Each agreement includes a virtual orchestra machine ban.

Additionally, the agreements call for the orchestras to file their engagements with the union electronically, saving the union time and administrative costs.

The American Symphony Orchestra agreement includes specific language covering the Bard Festival. Premiums for the Bard Festival will now be eligible for pension contributions. Five ASO musicians who continue to be displaced by musicians who have previously played the Bard Festival engagement will either receive full principal pay if they are not offered the Bard Festival, full principal pay if offered a section position and they accept, or 75 percent of full principal pay if they decline a section position. Additionally, the third trumpet and third oboe positions were added to the primary hiring list.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic has specific language covering education and community engagement services. “Music off the Walls” engagements will pay full scale; however, other educational and community engagements with no admission charge will pay 90 percent of scale. Prior to this contract small ensembles playing this work received a lesser dollar amount with no pension or health contributions. These engagements will now receive pension and health contributions and will be paid on a W-2 instead of a 1099.

The American Composers Orchestra has agreed that the reference in the contract to waive overscale for services in Zankel Hall will be deleted. Overscale shall now be applicable to all services produced by ACO. In addition, the incumbent librarian shall be tenured and any new librarian shall be tenured after two years.

The Long Island Philharmonic has agreed to a payment schedule (quarterly payments) for past monies owed to musicians and will sign a “confession of judgment” for the total balance due. (This means that should the employer fail to make payment for any quarter, 802 will have the right to enter judgment against the employer for the entire balance due together with interest, late penalties and court costs.)

Bronx Arts Ensemble and Riverside Symphony have also signed on to the same basic deal as all the above orchestras. Ratification of the agreements by the members of the various bargaining units has concluded for some orchestras but is ongoing for others.

A personal note: congratulations to all the orchestra committees whose contribution of time and dedication to the task knew no bounds. Also a heartfelt thank-you to Leonard Leibowitz who served as legal counsel throughout these negotiations.