NYC Ballet Ratifies Contract

Volume CIII, No. 1January, 2003

The New York City Ballet Orchestra ratified a new three-year agreement in early November, extending the current contract until Labor Day, 2005. The vote was 36-9.

At the end of the last agreement, base wages were $1,500 per week. The new agreement calls for raises to $1,550 in 2002-03; $1,610 in 2003-04; $1,635 in the first half of the 2004-05 season; and $1,700 in the second half of 2004-2005. This represents an increase of 13.3 percent over the life of the contract.

Hourly rehearsal rates increase by $2 per year to $54 in the first year, $56 in the second and $58 in the third. In addition, the string premium was increased by $5 per week, to $25.

The new contract also:

  • Modifies scheduling and attendance requirements at rehearsals;
  • Gives seniority credit to four former rotation players who are now members of the basic orchestra, for their years as rotation players;
  • Freezes the current rotation player situation for the term of the agreement;
  • Allows a somewhat greater flexibility in the scheduling of musicians’ personal days.

One item in particular prompted the most discussion at the table. The parties agreed to a new provision that will permit the ballet to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. utilizing, in alternate years, the Kennedy Center Orchestra and the NYC Ballet Orchestra. Previously, clauses in both orchestras’ agreements had required engagement of both orchestras. The Kennedy Center agreement with Local 161-710 had been modified last spring to allow for the alternate year scenario.

Some topics were tabled for future discussion. Musicians and management will form a task force during this season to discuss tours to other venues in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The parties will also discuss audition procedures and the terms of musicians’ participation in the company’s educational program.

In 1999, during the previous negotiation, a labor dispute over attendance requirements led to a one-day strike and two-week lockout. In contrast, this new contract was ratified several weeks before the beginning of the traditional Nutcracker season.

The negotiating committee included Bob Biddlecome, Paul Dunkel (Co-Chair), Conway Kuo, Ray Mase (Co-Chair) and Ron Wasserman. They were assisted by orchestra member Ethan Silverman, 802 counsel Leonard Leibowitz and President Bill Moriarity.