AUGUST 18, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sarah Chandler, President, Binghamton Local 380, AFM
Acting Principal Clarinet, Binghamton Philharmonic
Union Response to Binghamton Philharmonic Concert Cancellation Announcement
Binghamton, NY – Today, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) announced to the media that it has cancelled the opening concert of the 2015/2016 season.
This public announcement was made without any prior notice to the Negotiating Committee for Binghamton Local 380, American Federation of Musicians, despite a 48-hour press blackout agreed to by both sides. Currently the Union and the BPO are in mediation and have been working with an officer out of the Syracuse field office of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
The BPO asserted in its statement that the Union has “rejected proposals from the Binghamton Philharmonic Board of Directors for a two-year contract that would have provided musicians with a minimum base rate of $85 per service and 28 guaranteed services.” “In fact, the Union has not rejected the latest offer that the BPO made, said Sarah Chandler, President of Local 380, a member of the Union team and a member of the orchestra.” “Instead, we submitted questions to the mediator on August 17 in follow-up to the latest BPO offer and are awaiting a response from BPO. When we last met in person, at a mediation session on Wednesday, August 12, the Union made a proposal that the BPO flat out rejected.” That Union proposal was for a three-year contract that included a very small per service increase, a reduction in per mile compensation in travel and a return to the former housing policy whereby musicians were reimbursed for hotel. BPO rejected that proposal. “Between the return to the former mileage policy and the cut in mileage (currently drivers receive .41 per mile, well below the IRS rate), the BPO would realize quite a savings,” said Chandler. The Union estimates that in the 2014/2015 season the return to the former mileage policy would have saved them $14,000 even with the inclusion of hotel reimbursement.
At a negotiating session on June 15, the Union offered a reduction of one concert in the season to save the BPO money, which BPO rejected. This was prior to the BPO’s announcing its season to the public, which the Union believes was no sooner than July 1. “When a concert is cut,” Chandler stated, “the parties typically discuss the best time to do that. The Union certainly would not have suggested opening night. Such a late cancellation also gives musicians almost no time to find other work. The last minute cancellation is an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided, had we done this all together.”
While it is true that the BPO’s latest offer, made subsequent to the mediation session on August 12, does appear to include an offer to compensate some of the musicians a reduced amount for travel, all prior BPO offers stipulated paying absolutely no mileage to any musician. As stated on the BPO’s web page, “our 71 orchestra members live in more that 20 different cities” and “hail from Broome County and other Southern Tier counties, from the East Coast and New York City, from West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Baltimore, Rochester, and New Jersey.” These professional musicians choose to come to Binghamton instead of accepting other work and need to be compensated accordingly for their travel. For years the musicians have accepted far less than the IRS rate for mileage, and the Union has not proposed raising the mileage rate in these negotiations. Until August 13th, the BPO had insisted on deleting mileage altogether. “The Union is in the process of reviewing the offer that the Philharmonic made on the 13th and is awaiting clarification of the questions we sent to the mediator on the 17th,” said Chandler. The Union also has unresolved issues with language in the collective bargaining agreement that management has not yet addressed.
“We believe that the community wants to see the Binghamton Philharmonic continue as the high level professional orchestra it has become,” said Chandler. “These professional musicians want to continue to bring beautiful live music to the community and are deeply disappointed in the Philharmonic’s decision. The Union will continue to bargain in good faith until we reach a fair settlement for our musicians.”
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