Federal mediator to wade into Atlanta Symphony dispute starting next week

Credit: hpousner

Credit: hpousner

After four weeks of a lockout with no contract negotiations, the leaders and musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra have agreed to federal mediation.

The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) announced Friday that it will provide mediation services to both sides starting next week.

Credit: hpousner

Credit: hpousner

"In response to a joint request from the parties, the FMCS will provide mediation to the orchestra musicians and management with the goal of helping them reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the issues that divide them," the Washington-based agency said in a statement.

FMCS Acting Director Allison Beck, credited with reaching an accord in collective bargaining agreement negotiations this summer, will lead the agency's effort.

"The FMCS has been and remains in contact with the parties," the statement continued. "Federal mediators will begin meeting with the parties next week. No further information regarding meeting dates will be released at this time.

"Our mediators are aware of the public interest in the conduct of these discussions, but due to the sensitivity and complexity of these negotiations, the FMCS will have no further comment, as is the Agency's policy."

ASO and Woodruff administrators locked out the ASO musicians for the second time in two years on Sept. 7. Concerts for the 70th anniversary season have been cancelled through Nov. 8.

Now it will be Beck's challenge to get the musicians and ASO and Woodruff leaders to agree to a new deal by that date.

Earlier Friday, Mayor Kasim Reed, likely unaware that the FMCS announcement was coming, said he was willing to take a mediator-style role in the dispute. “I am going to be calling the leaders from both sides of the Woodruff and the ASO and inviting them to my office to begin to work on ending the lockout,” Reed said in a press conference that was mainly focused on the Atlanta Hawks' future in the city.