A two-year labor agreement was announced last night between orchestra management, the Atlanta Federation of Musicians and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association, saving the orchestra $2.4 million a year.
“We are absolutely delighted that we are able to do this, … to open our season next Thursday night at Symphony Hall,” said Orchestra President Stanley E. Romanstein Thursday at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly meeting at City Club of Buckhead. “Everybody lost a little bit but everybody gained a lot."
He said the new collective bargaining agreement with the musicians was a compromise resulting in discontent among all parties involved. However, he said together they are glad they can continue to play as planned.
“The reality for us is that our expenses have regularly exceeded our available funds," Romanstein said. "We are a $45 million-a year business. … Our annual losses are approximately $5 million. That is not sustainable.”
The agreement came after nearly a month since the previous contract expired Aug. 25, which left musicians locked out with no pay, health, dental and disability insurance, according to a news release posted in August to the musicians’ website.
At the meeting, Romanstein said one of the necessary steps to “balancing budget” and “closing the $5 million gap” is negotiating a new labor agreement with the musicians, like the one made last night.
The new contract includes changes like musician contributions to medical benefits for the first time, reducing number of musicians from 95 to 88, as well as new provisions allowing each of the musicians a 22 percent share of any annual surplus up to $3 million, according to a release posted last week to the orchestra’s website.
Less than happily, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association has accepted $5.2 million in concessions for the duration of the two-year contract, said Joel Dallow, cellist and musician spokesman.
“Certainly those cost-cutting measures should be applied across the company, not just to musicians, and that is clearly not what happened," Dallow, of north Fulton said
Along with the contract, other savings will come from unfilled staff positions and from foregone wages and benefits from the musicians.
Dallow said the musicians’ new salaries will be about $73,000, down from $88,400.
There will also be a six percent reduction in the orchestra’s senior staff compensation, which includes Romanstein’s previous salary of $314,000, according to the most recent IRS documents filed by the orchestra, stated in a news release posted last week to the musicians' website.
Dallow add the six percent pay-cut is aggregate, which means it is divided among a group of the senior staff.
“The contract is very distasteful. What’s most distasteful about it is how the musicians’ budget was the main target of this contract without a shared sacrifice from staff,” he said. “This contract was accepted by musicians because we felt it was most important to come back and play music for our audience. We didn’t want that to be in jeopardy.”