New Agreement Reached At Madison Square Garden

Volume CI, No. 1January, 2001

Local 802 has reached agreement on a new four-year contract covering employment of musicians at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. It is patterned closely after the agreement reached earlier this year with Radio City Productions, and includes a 3.5 percent annual wage increase in each of the next four years. Both Radio City Productions and MSG are owned by Cablevision.

The orchestra ratified the new agreement, 13 to 7, in voting that took place on Nov. 15 and 16. Besides the wage increase there is also a 1 percent increase in pension, which rises from 10 to 11 percent in year four. The only work currently covered by the agreement is MSG’s annual five-week production of A Christmas Carol. The size of that orchestra is maintained at 24 musicians over the life of the contract and at least 60 shows are guaranteed in each year that the show is produced.

The agreement also continues a 24-musician minimum for any Broadway show MSG may produce at their theatre. However, no minimum orchestra size is required for future 90-minute shows of a format similar to A Christmas Carol or Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular and wage rates for new shows will lag two years behind Christmas Carol rates. Both provisions are similar to those in the RCMH agreement.

For touring theatrical shows that may come to MSG, the agreement requires wages to be paid at the Broadway rate, with per diem payments to be made under the terms of the AFM’s Pamphlet B agreement. It was also agreed that, for these touring shows, a second show on a Sunday will pay straight time, also as per the Pamphlet B contract.

The talks with MSG began, as they did at RCMH, with a management threat to record the show and put it on without a live orchestra unless its contract demands were agreed to. These included a cut in the Christmas Carol orchestra to 16 pieces and a substantial wage cut. President Moriarity responded, telling management across the table that “Local 802 will not be intimidated by these kind of threats. If you think we are going to roll over and accept whatever you put on the bargaining table because you threaten a tape, you are wrong,” he warned. “We will do whatever is necessary to protect our members.”

In mid-October negotiations broke off over management’s insistent demands for concessions. With no talks under way, management asked that the parts from the show be delivered to their offices, presumably to carry out their threat to record the show. But under the terms of the Local 802/MSG contract that was still in place at the time, MSG had an obligation to do any recording work under an AFM agreement. Because no such agreement was in place, Local 802 ordered that the music be turned over to the union. It was, and 802 retained control of the orchestral parts for nearly a week. The music was returned to MSG’s control simultaneously with agreement to resume talks.

The re-started talks soon broke off again over the issue of a minimum for future 90-minute shows. A lengthy orchestra meeting sent the negotiators back to the bargaining table, and the final agreement was achieved.