Originally Published in the New York Times on 09/23/2019
Written By: Michael Cooper
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which locked out its musicians over the summer while seeking substantial budget reductions, ratified a one-year agreement on Monday that will cut the number of official weeks of work for the musicians this year, but will make up the difference with bonus pay.
The orchestra’s management had wanted to cut the musicians’ paid weeks of work to 40, from the current 52. The musicians argued that such a cut in paid weeks would demote them from the ranks of year-round ensembles and make it harder to attract and retain top talent.
So are they still a full-time orchestra, or a part-time one? It depends on how you count.
Under the new agreement, management said, musicians would be paid for 40 weeks of work this coming season — and for another 10 weeks next summer through what the orchestra called “bonus compensation” that was made possible by a group of donors.
That means the players will be paid for 50 weeks this season. It is less than the customary 52 weeks, but that is because the first two weeks of the season were lost to the labor dispute.
The agreement will allow the orchestra to start its delayed season on Friday. But it leaves some of the big questions about the orchestra’s future unresolved, since it runs only through next September — and it is unclear whether the bonus pay that will keep the musicians’ compensation stable this year will be available again.
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