After the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th anniversary season, the musicians returned from their summer break to learn that agreement had been reached for a new contract. The new contract, ratified on September 27, was for an unprecedented five years, ending in 2015–2016. Music Director JoAnn Falletta is currently signed through the same year, which will be her 17th with the BPO.
The agreement allows the musicians to continue their focus on music making while it allows management to focus on continued efforts of fundraising and audience growth. The contract will see the orchestra return to Carnegie Hall for the first time since June 2004, performing at the Spring for Music festival in May 2013. It will be the 23rd performance for the BPO at Carnegie Hall.
The contract offers modest improvements to musician salary, starting at $43,337 including emg and rising to $48,120 in the last year. For a third year in a row now, the weekly salary in the first year of the contract is $1,084. The musicians will see an overall salary increase, though, due to the reinstatement of one week of vacation that was surrendered in the last contract. The two weeks of vacation pay given up in the last contract will be replaced over the course of the new contract, as well as one more week of work added in the final year. The musicians will continue to contribute a minimal amount toward health insurance in the first year of the contract. They have agreed to contribute up to 50% of the yearly increases in the future years of the contract. The AFM-EPF pension contribution remains at 8.4%.
Delegate Daniel Sweeley reports that the musicians feel very fortunate to have received this contract in these trying times with relative ease. He says that they have worked hard over the years to maintain a positive relationship with both their management and board. Both sides were realistic about achievable goals. After having offered concessions over the last several years to help their management and board stabilize the organization, the musicians feel that their patience and efforts have paid off.
According to John Ferrillo, the atmosphere surrounding Boston Symphony Orchestra negotiations was tense, in part because of a two-year pay freeze and the Wall Street gyrations in August. Mel Schwarzwald served as the attorney for the players. The players are grateful for the professionalism, deft leadership, and gentlemanly behavior he brought to the table. As the contract expiration approached, progress remained elusive, and both sides called upon the services of federal mediator Joshua Flax.
The basic financial terms arrived at were excellent, particularly considering the financial climate. Each year of the three-year agreement has a 3% increase in scale. It is notable that management agreed to an upgrade, to $77,000, of the defined benefit pension plan. Even more notable is the management’s and board’s clear statement of a long-term commitment to the defined benefit plan. On a more sober note, there is a decided bump up in premium sharing for those in PPO medical plans. Families will now each be paying $1,300 annually. HMO plans still are offered without premium sharing.
There was considerable discussion of the orchestra calendar, leading to a restructuring of the contract to allow an expansion of the holiday pops season, and an attendant shrinkage of the spring pops. This was seen as a partial antidote for the serious decline in ticket revenue which the spring pops has experienced this past decade.
Without a doubt, the most contentious issue facing both sides was the issue of retiree medical insurance. The Boston Symphony has had a policy of covering the entirety of post-retirement health care, and this will continue for pre-1995 retirees. For the remaining retirees, the support of “Medigap” insurance premium will now be capped annually at $5,400 per retiree. Although creative ways were found to buy two to three more years of protection for them, they will begin paying an ever-increasing share of that cost. Provisions have been made for active players to assist the retirees in this area, perhaps in the form of benefit concerts.
The other major disappointment for the Players’ Committee was in the area of media. The committee attempted to get a commitment to a higher media profile for the BSO, with a media guarantee akin to that of peers in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Met. That effort did not meet with success.