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Musicians, ASO management disagree about fund-raising and whether salary cut or increase is on table

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in concert during the 2013-14 season. CONTRIBUTED BY ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in concert during the 2013-14 season. CONTRIBUTED BY ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

As the clock ticks toward a 11:59 p.m. Saturday deadline in negotiations between Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management and the musicians, the gloves appear to be coming off.

Until Thursday, both sides had been proceeded quietly and cautiously, saying they didn’t want to negotiate in public, in hopes of forging a new deal that would allow the 70th anniversary season to open as scheduled on Sept. 25.

But off the record, the word was that the gulf between the two sides was wide.

After a Thursday negotiating session in which the distance apparently was not narrowed, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association released a statement charging that the ASO and Woodruff Arts Center had broken a promise made to musicians after rancorous negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement in September 2012.

“Two years ago, the ASO musicians took a $14,000 annual pay cut,” the statement said. “The musicians agreed to this because the ASO and Woodruff Arts Center management stated that they needed this concession in order to balance the budget, and to create a new business model for the ASO. The musicians were assured that this cut was a one-time only concession that would be met in equal measure by additional fundraising. CEO Stanley Romanstein has failed to raise the funding necessary … (and) once again, the management of the ASO and the WAC are demanding that every single musician shoulders thousands of dollars in additional concessions.”

Responding to the charges, ASO spokesman Randy Donaldson said late Thursday afternoon that the musicians failed to acknowledge that the orchestra leadership in the last two years has secured $4.5 million in corporate donations, being paid over  three years, as well as an anonymous donation totaling $1 million over two years.

Donaldson said ASO management also disputes the musicians’ suggestion that it and Woodruff leadership are demanding further salary concessions from the musicians.

“The important thing is, that management, as part of its current proposal, proposes an increase for the musicians over the life of the contract.”

The full statement from the musicians follows:

The current contract of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians expires at

midnight on Saturday September 6, 2014. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Players Association has been engaged in negotiations with ASO management for

the last eight months.

Two years ago, the ASO musicians took a $14,000 annual pay cut. The

musicians agreed to this because the ASO and Woodruff Arts Center (WAC)

management stated that they needed this concession in order to balance the

budget, and to create a new business model for the ASO.

The musicians were assured that this cut was a one-time only concession that

would be met in equal measure by additional fundraising. CEO Stanley

Romanstein has failed to raise the funding necessary to balance the budget.

Meanwhile, the WAC rewarded him with a new three-year contract, despite a

catastrophic failure to reach budgeted goals during FY13.

It is important to remember this: The ASO musicians account for only a quarter

of the ASO’s budget, and once again, the management of the ASO and the WAC

are demanding that every single musician shoulders thousands of dollars in

additional concessions.

More AJC coverage: ASO maestros Spano, Runnicles speak up about contract negotiations; management quickly responds


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