Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ISO in exile: Union says 'no' to opt-out clause

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 2:32 PM

ISO management made public its latest contract proposal late Monday night, noting in a press release that because management “simply can't wait to hear from our musicians and risk losing any more of our season,” an official offer had been submitted to the union on Oct. 1 with a deadline of Oct. 6.

Key components of the proposal include a minimum base salary in the first year of $53,000, with gradual increases to $70,000 by year five, a 38 to 42 week season, an orchestra size of 74 musicians (a number allowing for the hiring of two full-time musicians ) and a defined benefit plan for current musicians with a 403(b) for new hires.

The five-year contract would allow for a one-time termination option at the close of year three, whereby either party could elect, at the end of year two, to opt out of the contract. “This allows the ISO Board and the management to make a stretch offer while not exposing the organization to excessive risk if the ISO is unable meet the new, ambitious fundraising goals,” according to the release.

However, as part of the latest proposal, the ISO has offered to remove the termination clause of the contract if $5 million is raised from new sources by March 31, 2013.

Union negotiating chair Rick Graef told NUVO Tuesday at noon that the termination option was unacceptable to ISO musicians — and that, moreover, they had rejected the ISO's proposal on Monday before it had been released to the public. They rejected the proposal publicly on Tuesday afternoon via press release.

ISO spokesperson Jessica DiSanto noted Tuesday that the offer to remove the termination clause if the $5 million fundraising goal is met “was offered for the first time yesterday to try to address the musicians’ concerns regarding the termination clause,” thereby differentiating the latest proposal from all that preceded it. “After the offer was delivered, we moved forward with updating our community on our current offer, with the hope that it demonstrates how far we’ve come in a difficult negotiation process and how much we want to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the musicians rejected our offer in a short time frame.”

Graef says the union and the ISO had come to terms on wages, pension, health care and benefits in mid-September in a behind-the-scenes meeting with a federal mediator. But before the contract could be signed, according to Graef, those terms were “regressively bargained away,” with the addition of the termination clause and reduction of pension benefits that had been agreed upon in a preliminary sense. DiSanto countered that these claims are “simply untrue.”

And so here we are, with another week of concerts canceled (that makes a month's worth, with no chance of a concert before Oct. 12), and with pianist Andre Watts signing on to perform with the ISO players, in exile, at an impromptu show at the Palladium Sunday (Oct. 7, 7 p.m., $10-35, isomusicians.com).

Watts will play Beethoven's “Emperor” Concerto, with Mussorgsky's crowd favorite, Pictures at an Exhibition, also on the bill. Samuel Wong is on the podium and partial proceeds will head to the New World Youth Orchestra.

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