The players of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have ratified a new one-year contract that ends strike action, for now
Following more than three months of strike action, the Baltimore Symphony musicians have agreed to a one-year contract. They will open the orchestra’s 2019-20 concert season this weekend.
The agreement, which was announced on Monday, will cut the number of official weeks of work for the musicians this year, but will make up the difference with bonus pay.
The orchestra’s management had wanted to cut the musicians’ paid weeks of work to 40, from the current 52. The musicians argued that this cut in paid weeks would demote them from the ranks of year-round ensembles and make it harder to attract and retain top talent.
The terms of the one-year agreement, effective through September 6, 2020, include the following:
- Increase of 2.4% in weekly scale over 38 concert weeks plus 2 summer weeks, including the BSO’s Star-Spangled Spectacular at Oregon Ridge.
- Bonus compensation to the musicians of $1.6 million for the 10 weeks of summer equal to their increased weekly scale, made possible through the generosity of special friends of the BSO.
- Collectively, base pay will increase to $81,438.50 during the contract period.
- Continuation of a comprehensive year-round benefits package which includes medical, dental, vision, life, long-term disability and instrument insurance. Musicians and management will jointly address the expected increase in health insurance premiums on January 1, 2020, with a possible modest increase that would be borne by both the musicians and the BSO.
- Four weeks of paid vacation during the concert season, as well as additional time off during the summer that will be covered by the $1.6 million in bonus pay.
- A commitment to hire additional musicians during the 2019-20 season.
- The formation of a standing Board committee, the Vision Committee, to include musician participation, with a broad mandate to plan for the future of the BSO.
- Agreement to meet together to continue addressing work rules over the next 60 days.
- No strike and no lockout through September 6, 2020, and the musicians will withdraw and not refile the unfair labor practice charge that was filed on September 10, 2019.
In effect, the players will be paid for 50 weeks this season - less than the customary 52 weeks, but that is because the first two weeks of the season were lost to the dispute.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Board Chair Barbara Bozzuto said, ‘It is a proud moment at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that an agreement has been reached with our musicians. In the view of the Board, the establishment of a Vision Committee is the most promising provision, as we are committed to including our musicians in additional aspects of planning, programming, fundraising and governance.’ Bozzuto added, ‘There is still a great deal of work to be done in building a new business model, but we are better poised to accomplish these goals together.’
Music Director Marin Alsop, in attendance at the press conference, stated, ‘I’m thrilled that an agreement has been reached and that we will have our musicians back on stage to open our 104th season beginning on Friday night. The musicians of our Orchestra are a great treasure to our community and this agreement assures that we will continue creating the highest level of music-making together.’
The agreement, however, leaves certain questions about the orchestra’s future unanswered, as it is unclear whether the bonus pay that ensured the musicians’ compensation this year will be available again next September.