Two Opera Companies Reach Agreements with 802

Volume CI, No. 5May, 2001

David Lennon

Local 802 has signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Henry Street Chamber Opera, a new opera company based at the Henry Street Settlement. Millennial Arts Production has also reached agreement on a first collective bargaining agreement, as well as a settlement of a recording grievance filed by the union that was scheduled for arbitration.

Both agreements will bring these opera companies up to full freelance opera/ballet scale within a year.

The performance wage for the Henry Street Chamber Opera already meets current freelance concert scale, paying $175 for a performance of two-and-one-half hours or less. Rehearsals are compensated at $29 per hour, with a two-and-one-half hour minimum call. These rates are contingent upon an employment guarantee of a minimum of 24 musicians (plus conductor) for one production each year, consisting of a minimum of four performances and 18 hours of rehearsal.

The employer will make pension contributions of 11 percent of gross wages and health contributions at current freelance opera scale ($22 per performance and $5 per rehearsal). The agreement will be renegotiated in September, after new industrywide freelance opera and concert scales have been established.

In addition to provisions that secure appropriate compensation for any recording made by the Henry Street Chamber Opera, the contract also stipulates terms and conditions for performances filmed for broadcast on Classic Arts Showcase.

The recording provisions in the Henry Street agreement are especially important since a grievance with Millennial Arts arose over this very issue. The employer had signed a grant application recording agreement with Local 802 in December 1999. These agreements cover three concerts and specifically state that only one tape may be made and it may only be used in connection with applying for a grant. If the agreement is violated, the employer is obligated to pay 200 percent of the appropriate AFM scale for misuse of the tape.

In April 2000, Millennial Arts Productions sent all performers a 16-minute videotape highlighting portions of approximately 40 hours of film that had apparently been shot during rehearsals and performances of the company’s Messiah production during November and December 1999. A letter stating that there was a very good chance that the video would be broadcast on Classic Arts Showcase accompanied the videotape. The union contended that these actions were in direct violation of the Grant Application Recording Agreement and filed a grievance, which was scheduled for arbitration in March 2001.

Shortly before the arbitration date, Millennial Arts Productions initiated a meeting with Local 802 and expressed a willingness to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement and settlement of the grievance. The agreement that was reached provides current freelance opera scales of $192.86 for performances of three hours or less, rehearsals paid at $37.50 per hour with a two-and-one-half hour minimum call, a 13.5 percent pension contribution and a health contribution of $22 per performance and $5 per rehearsal, along with all applicable premiums. The contract extends these rates until May 1, 2002, at which time all terms and conditions will be increased to the freelance opera/ballet scales and conditions in effect on that date.

The agreement also establishes a primary hiring list, guaranteeing job security for all musicians who have performed a minimum of 50 percent of all Millennial Arts engagements over the past two years. Millennial Arts agreed to pay all musicians involved in the 1999 recording the appropriate Local Public Television scale rate, a settlement of the outstanding grievance that comes to approximately $4,000.

While both agreements were designed to enable the companies to “get off the ground,” both will move the orchestras to industrywide freelance opera scales within a relatively short period of time.