Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Proposes Pay Cuts For Musicians And Staff

Atlanta Musicians Come Up With Controversial Solution To Save Symphony

Facing debt that could equal $20 million by 2013, musicians and management staff from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra met yesterday in hopes of reaching an agreement over potential pay cuts for the organization.

In a current proposal offered by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players' Association, the musicians have offered to cut their compensation by 11 percent. But their sacrifice comes with a caveat: They want the orchestra's senior management staff to take an equal pay cut.

“We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with. Our comprehensive solution calls for the staff to share the reduction with us in the coming seasons to help stabilize the future of this great orchestra,” cellist and ASOPA President Daniel Laufer said in a statement posted on Access Atlanta.

According to Arts Journal, if the senior management staff accepted the proposed pay cuts, the orchestra would save approximately $5 million over the next two years. This is the last in a series of debt remedy proposals dating back to March 2nd. A previous proposal from ASOPA totaled only $1 million, an offer that failed to reach the $3.1 million in cuts demanded by management.

Now with the $5 million dollar savings plan on the table, the musicians say they are hoping to evade a potential lockout imposed by the orchestra's staff. ASOPA was allegedly threatened with an August 25th deadline; however, the orchestra's president, Stanley Romanstein, told The Huffington Post that the date simply denotes the end of the musicians' current contracts, emphasizing that he hopes a solution will be agreed upon before then. Otherwise, the orchestra lacks the funds to carry on the contracts in their present state.

”As is appropriate, we will respond quickly to the proposal at the negotiation table." Romanstein stated, "I am grateful for the sincerity and seriousness of [ASOPA's] most recent proposal, and we are all working toward the same thing -- a long term solution for these financial challenges."

Romanstein attributes the ASO's financial woes to the fact that the organization has been operating at a deficit for the past 10 years, with expenses outpacing revenues to the point of exhaustion. Numbers provided to Access Atlanta by ASO management claim that the musicians' salaries have increased by 23 percent since 2006, during which time staff salaries declined by 1.7 percent. But the players' association offers a different assessment, with spokesperson Colin Williams stating that staff compensation has gone up by nearly 50 percent while total musician compensation increased by only 16 percent.

According to Access Atlanta, the entry level salary for an ASO musician is $88,400, which is typically accompanied by comprehensive health coverage, instrument insurance, pension contributions and paid vacation. In comparison, information from the Woodruff Arts Center’s 2010 IRS Form 990 shows that ASO Executive Vice President for Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer Don Fox was paid almost $300,000, including a $20,000 bonus, representing a $30,000 increase over the previous year.

Let us know what you think of the ongoing negotiations between Atlanta Symphony Orchestra players and staff in the comments section. Should senior staff members concede to equal pay cuts or do the players need to offer up more concessions?

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