ASO management mulls a response to musicians’ latest contract proposal

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The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Management of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is considering a proposal from the ASO Players’ Association. A deadline of Nov. 8 looms. That’s the date management set for resumption of concerts after it cancelled the first part of the 2014-15 season in late September.

The negotiating team for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its parent nonprofit Woodruff Arts Center continued on Tuesday to consider a response to Monday’s proposal by the ASO Players’ Association. A public announcement was not immediately expected.

In one seemingly positive development, however, both sides have been consulting with Richard Giacolone, a U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediator, by phone this week.

Federal mediators left Atlanta without the parties reaching a collective bargaining agreement last week, continuing the musician lockout that began Sept. 7.

A deadline to reach an accord on Nov. 8 looms. That’s the date that ASO management set in late September to resume performances when it cancelled the first eight concerts of the 70th anniversary season. Without a deal soon, management said it would be forced to cancel more concerts.

On one of two remaining major issues, management proposed late last week that the number of full-time musicians for the 2014-15 season should be cut from the 88 in the last contract to the 76 players who remain (after defections, retirements and deaths). Management said it would launch a major fund-raising campaign to endow musician chairs with the goal to rebuild the size of the orchestra “over time as we can afford to do so — up to 90 players.” Its pledge, however, was not promised as part of the contract.

On Monday, the Players’ Association countered with a proposal of starting with 77 players and increasing the ranks incrementally to a minimum of 88 by the end of the 2017-18 season. The musicians seek to have required numbers for the final two years included in the contract.

Pay is the other issue still to be resolved. Management has not changed its long-time offer of a graduated 4.5 percent raise over the four years. The musicians have moved from proposing a graduated 15 percent raise to one closer to 10 percent.

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