A tit-for-tat battle for control of the narrative continues between union and management as we head into the fifth week of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra lockout.
The key issue, upon which neither side will compromise, is a “termination clause” that would allow either union or management to end a proposed five-year contract after three years. Early last week, the musicians' union rejected a contract including the termination clause; last weekend, ISO management, in turn, rejected a proposal by the union without the clause.
Richard Graef, chairman of the ISO musicians' negotiating committee, describes both sides as largely agreeing on the main points of the contract — wages, season length, orchestra membership, pensions — but for the clause.
The failure to reach an agreement has led to the cancellation of this weekend's concerts. It would have been the first of two weekends in October to feature conductor wunderkind Krzysztof Urbanski. ISO musicians played their second, freelance concert during the lockout Oct. 7 at the Palladium, raising money for the New World Youth Orchestras, as well as to fund future concerts by ISO musicians.
Management acknowledged in a press release issued Monday that union and management have “mutually exclusive positions” on the termination clause. They also raised the issue of the union's “secret” list of demands. “There also is a list of yet unidentified obstacles to reaching an agreement — 'unidentified' because the musicians acknowledge to having a list of items that still divide the parties but have refused to provide that list to the ISO.” ISO interim CEO Jackie Groth is quoted as saying that the union's withholding of the list has made reaching a deal “challenging.”
Graef responded that such a list does exist, in a sense, but that because the union's negotiating team wants to reach agreement on key points like wages, orchestra size, season length and benefits before moving on to any other issues, they've thus far withheld a rundown of other concerns with the ISO's contract proposals. “There's no point in discussing how many rehearsals we have until we know if we're taking a 50 percent or 20 percent pay cut,” he said.
And there are more secrets: The union contends that an agreement on a contract acceptable to both sides was reached, according to a union press release, “in a meeting on Sept. 11 between John Thornburgh, chairman of the ISO Board, and Jackie Groth, interim president and CEO, representing the [Indiana Symphony] Society, and Rick Graef, chair, and Jerry Montgomery, associate chair, of the musicians’ negotiating committee.” The union says that the ISO then “reneged” on the agreement, adding the termination clause. ISO spokesperson Jessica di Santo told NUVO last week that this scenario is “simply untrue.”
The Sept. 11 meeting was unique and off-the-record, according to Graef; legal representatives for both sides were absent, as were members of both side's negotiation teams. However, he expected ISO management to abide by agreements reached in the meeting, and felt “totally betrayed” when the ISO introduced the termination clause during a subsequent, on-the-record Sept. 19 meeting with legal representation present.