Limited progress reported in Atlanta Symphony mediated contract negotiations

Progress was made on one major issue, but none in another, after nearly 40 hours of federally mediated negotiations over the last three days between Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians and ASO and Woodruff Arts Center administrators, according to the ASO Players' Association.

Leaders of the musicians' union  released a statement in the wee hours Friday morning saying that "significant progress" was made on the issue of health care, but none was achieved regarding the size of the orchestra going forward.

In the two-year collective bargaining agreement signed in 2012, the orchestra's "complement" (number of full-time musicians) was cut from 95 to 88. ASO and Woodruff (WAC) leaders seek ultimate control over the ASO's size as one proposed strategy in halting 12 years of orchestra deficits, including $2 million in fiscal 2014.

"The WAC leadership continued steadfastly to refuse to support the need of a world-class orchestra for a minimum fixed number of musicians," the Players' Association statement said.

The musicians said the number of remaining full-time musicians now stands at 77 after departures, retirements and deaths. While most of those transitions occurred in the off-season, before the lockout began Sept. 7, clarinet and bass clarinet player Alcides Rodriguez recently resigned to join the New York Philharmonic. There he is reunited with two other former ASO musicians, Colin Williams and Richard Deane, who were hired before its 2014-15 season opened.

"While the orchestra has been reduced by departures to only 77 musicians ... the WAC refuses even to commit to 77 musicians," the statement said.

The Woodruff Arts Center, the orchestra’s parent nonprofit, limited its response Friday morning to the statement’s headline: “WAC WALKS AWAY FROM ASO TALKS.”

“As we communicated to the musicians' union and the federal mediator last night, we adjourned at 11 p.m. in order to consider the union's latest proposal today, which we are currently doing," management said in its response. "To say we ‘walked away’ is not the truth and the union knows it. We will respond to their proposal later today.”

The next negotiating session -- with Allison Beck, acting director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and mediator Richard Giacolone -- has not been scheduled.

The musicians say that they suggested a health care plan that will save the WAC/ASO more than $250,000 annually over the plan that management cancelled on Oct. 1.

The musicians said they also proposed annual pay increases of 1 percent to 2 percent over a four-year contract. Average pay over the final season would be $87,357.07. (The Players' Association released a summary of its compensation proposal; see table below.)

"The musicians are available to meet and are certain that an agreement is entirely possible that will end the heinous lockout," they said in the statement.

(Compensation and percentage increases remain factored into winter season weeks only.)

2013-14 Compensation was $75,936.06

1% / 1% (21 weeks / 21 weeks) increase over $1729.43 = $1746.72 / $1764.18

$1746.72 per 21 weeks times &

$1764.18 per 21 weeks times = $74,095.56 + $3,300 (summer) = $77,395.56

1.75% / 1.75% (21 weeks / 21 weeks) increase over $1764.18 = $1795.05 / $1826.46

$1795.05 per 21 weeks times &

$1826.46 per 21 weeks times = $76,711.32+ $3,300 (summer) = $80,011.32

1.5% / 1.75% (21 weeks / 22 weeks) increase over $1826.46 = $1853.85 / $1886.29

$1853.85 per 21 weeks times &

$1886.29 per 22 weeks times = $79,224.18+ $3,300 (summer) = $84,410.47

2% / 2% (21 weeks / 22 weeks) increase over $1886.29 = $1924.01 / $1962.49

$1924.01 per 21 weeks times &

$1962.49 per 22 weeks times = $84,387.07+ $ 2,970 (summer) = $ 87,357.07

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