BSO musicians ratify contract, agree to cut in pay

November 18, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who had been playing without a contract since September, yesterday ratified a two-year contract that both players and management termed "concessionary."

The agreement calls for modest cutbacks in salaries and a new, less-expensive health-care program that will combine with a number of cutsin other areas to help reduce the orchestra's expenses by $1 million this year, thus forestalling deficits similar to those now crippling several other major orchestras.

"This contract is a setback in terms of what we wanted to accomplish, but we are accepting it because of our willingness to work with management in what are challenging times for all of us," said Joseph Turner, chairman of the players' negotiating committee.

The contract calls for a reduction of the base weekly salary from the current $1,040 to $1,030 for the next 16 months, then increasing to $1050 in the last six months of the second year, and a change in health-care coverage from an indemnity plan to a preferred provider network plan that will save another $200,000 for the organization.

"This is not a celebratory occasion in which the orchestra can announce that it is able to do everything it wanted to do," said BSO executive director John Gidwitz after the contract was ratified. "We're grateful to the musicians for their willingness to work under the constraints that all American orchestras are facing."

At major orchestras in Cincinnati, Toronto and Detroit, players have had to face more severe cuts in pay than those announced here. Moreover, BSO players will receive increases in seniority pay in the last six months of the current contract, increased disability coverage and instrument insurance paid for by the BSO. The new contract also insures that they will be part of an orchestral institution that continues to rank among the healthiest in the country. The BSO's current accumulated deficit is $266,000, while deficits in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit are as high as $6 million.

Mr. Gidwitz said the reason the BSO took so long to settle its contract is that late last summer, when negotiations were almost completed, the orchestra learned that -- because of unexpected cutbacks totaling more than $700,000 in county and state grants -- it could not offer the players what it had anticipated offering without incurring a more than $2 million deficit for the 1992-93 season. Because of the new contract and other cuts in expenses, the estimated deficit will be a little more than $1 million.

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