A long negotiating session between the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and its musicians ended Monday without an agreement, and yesterday the musicians have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the management of unfair labour practices. This means that the first performance of the 2019-2020 season, scheduled for next Saturday is likely not to take place.

After Monday’s negotiation round, both sides published their view of the bargaining.

BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome stated: “We urge our musicians to accept the offer of our Board and management in which we worked to address concerns about compensation and benefits, and the size of the Orchestra, while helping us to move forward together.” Kjome added, “We are grateful that members of our community have pledged generous support to help the organization and our musicians. »

According to the management, they made the following revised proposal for a one-year agreement, with no strike and no lockout, effective through August 31, 2020. Included in the offer to the musicians:

  • An increase in weekly scale on a 40-week concert season and continuation of a comprehensive benefits package.
  • A restricted fund of up to $1.3 million that will be used to provide extra compensation to the musicians during the twelve weeks of summer, with a guarantee that the fund will equal at least $1 million.
  • An agreement to hire additional musicians this 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.

A second option was presented to the musicians: « Return to work on September 11 under the terms and benefit structure of the previous Agreement, with a commitment of no-strike/no-lockout through December 31, 2019.  During this time, the BSO and Musicians would agree to work collaboratively with the Vision Committee and the Legislative Work Group to resolve outstanding issues and plan for the future. »

The management also says: « The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has paid health, dental, and vision insurance premiums in full for the period of the lockout and for the month of September.  If musicians choose not to return to work this week, they will have access to the health insurance benefits through COBRA.

The musicians see things differently. Ion their press statement they say: « The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer. We organized prominent donors to assist in this process. These generous donors brought $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract. We want to express appreciation from the bottom of our hearts, to these donors for their unwavering commitment. It is incredibly disheartening that BSO leadership would fail to embrace this offer of help from some of Baltimore’s leading philanthropists.

Where do we go from here? The musicians will continue the fight to preserve our 103-year old institution, which serves the City of Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the State of Maryland. We stand ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table to achieve an agreement that will enable us to continue to attract and retain the highest quality musicians to perform for our audiences. »

The press release also says: « This is a dark day in the history of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Over the past three months the musicians have each lost over $20,000 in salary, with more to come. This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution. »

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