Atlanta Symphony musicians, management agree to four-year deal; concerts to start Nov. 13

The two-month Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musician lockout is over, and the music will begin again Nov. 13.

Orchestra officials announced late Saturday afternoon the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement forged between the ASO Players' Association and management of the ASO and its parent nonprofit Woodruff Arts Center. The four-year deal was forged over the last month with the help of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediators.

Here is full text of the announcement (come back to the AJC today for more details and quotes from the principals):




70th Anniversary Season To Begin November 13 With

Music Director Robert Spano Conducting Orchestra and Chorus

The 70th anniversary season of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will open on Thursday, November 13, after the Orchestra’s musicians and management came to terms on a new four-year collective bargaining agreement this week.

Robert Spano, Music Director of the ASO, will conduct the Orchestra and Chorus performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with David Coucheron on November 13 and 15.

The new agreement was reached Thursday after lengthy negotiation sessions between the musicians and management with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.  The agreement was approved by the Woodruff Arts Center’s Governing Board and ratified by the membership of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players’ Association over the last two days.

“We are thrilled we have been able to reach agreement with the musicians,” said Virginia A. Hepner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodruff Arts Center. “Over the last several difficult weeks of negotiations, both sides recognized that we all share the same goals and aspirations – we all want a world class orchestra that the musicians and city are proud of and one that has long-term financial stability.  We believe this new agreement is one that will allow us to achieve those goals.”

“This agreement brings the restoration of a harmonious relationship within everyone's grasp based on work we must do together to restore missing positions in the Orchestra while stabilizing and advancing the financial position of the Woodruff Arts Center and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,” said Paul Murphy, ASO Associate Principal Violist and President of the Musicians’ negotiating team.

The new agreement calls for a six percent pay increase for the musicians over the four years; participation by the musicians in a new high-deductible healthcare plan, which will include increased premium contributions by the musicians and additionally provides substantial savings to the ASO; an initial complement of 77 musicians in year one, a goal of 81 musicians in year two and a commitment to 84 musicians by the end of year three and 88 musicians by the end of year four.

“Both sides made significant concessions during these negotiations, and we are grateful for the musicians’ willingness to work with us to reach a new agreement,” Ms. Hepner said. “While completion of the agreement is wonderful news, the reality is that the hard work begins now.  Together we must find new, compelling ways to engage the community to assure the support the Symphony needs. We must work together with Music Director Robert Spano and our musicians to get more people in Symphony Hall and more donors willing to support our extraordinary Orchestra. We are confident we can make that happen.”

“We have already seen proof of that support from the Board of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  Their commitment over the last few weeks to provide the Orchestra with additional, extraordinary financial support gave us important flexibility as we finalized the new agreement. The Board deserves the gratitude of everyone who loves the Orchestra.”

“We are grateful and humbled by the incredible outpouring of support displayed for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from our community as well as across the country and around the world. The unwavering support for the Musicians and the ASO as an institution by both Music Director Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles, Principal Guest Conductor of the ASO, never can be fully expressed in words, but we are grateful to have such inspiring artistic leaders both on and off the stage,” added Danny Laufer, ASO Associate Principal Cellist and Vice-President of the Musicians’ negotiating team.

“The Musicians especially appreciate WAC Chariman Doug Hertz’ personal efforts in the final days to bring this very difficult negotiation to a successful conclusion,” added Mr. Murphy.

Both Ms. Hepner and Mr. Murphy praised the work of Ms. Allison Beck, Acting Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and Mr. Richard Giacolone, Commissioner of the FMCS.

“The mediation process was crucial in helping bring about this new agreement,” said Ms. Hepner.  “We want to thank Ms. Beck and Mr. Giacolone for their tireless efforts during these last few weeks.”