1. What is the “Musicians’ Union?”
The Union is the musicians. The BPO musicians’ exclusive bargaining agent is Binghamton Local 380 of the American Federation of Musicians. Local 380’s Executive Board currently consists of musicians who are all either members of the BPO and/or the Tri-Cities Opera Orchestra. The 2015 negotiating team consisted of musicians elected by their colleagues from the orchestra, a local officer and a private consultant who is also an orchestral musician.
2. What were these negotiations all about?
The Musicians’ Union’s initial contract proposal included an increase in per service fees of 19% spread over three years, no mileage increase and audition language that would have saved the BPO money. Management’s first proposal sought to cut several string positions, cut per service pay back 11% (to 2007 level wages) in year one and delete mileage and auditions completely.
3. Did the Union propose or agree to any language in negotiations that would save the BPO money?
Yes. In addition to agreeing to the BPO’s proposal to freeze per service compensation for the first year of the contract, the Union proposed that the BPO return to the mileage/housing policy agreed to with the former contract, which the Union estimates would have saved $14,000 over last year’s budget. Under that policy, musicians who stayed in the hotel received one round trip for mileage and hotel was paid for the week. The Union also proposed that the BPO consolidate four rehearsals into three rehearsals for four of the concerts, thus reducing the weekly rehearsal time from ten to nine hours and saving the BPO service fees and travel.
The Union estimated that the combination of a reduced rehearsal schedule and a return to the former housing/mileage policy would have saved the BPO $41,500 in the first year of the contract. After applying all of the savings from the Union financial package, the effective cost of mileage would only have been an estimated $17,500 in the 2015/2016 season. This reflected a 70% reduction over last season’s travel cost. The BPO rejected this financial package.
Also, the Union proposed Audition language whereby a musician could be designated as a runner up at an audition for a period of up to two years. This could have saved the Philharmonic the cost of holding an audition for that position if an opening for an equivalent position occurred during those two years. The BPO rejected this language and all language the Union proposed regarding auditions.
4. Did the Union tell the BPO to cancel the opening night concert?
Absolutely not. The Union made a proposal in the June 15, negotiating session that the BPO cancel one concert of the season to save money. At that time, the BPO had not yet announced the season to the public and could have chosen to remove a concert from the season before an announcement was made. The BPO rejected this offer during the June 15 session and did not raise it again.
5. Why was the 2015/2016 opening night concert canceled?
The BPO made the unilateral decision to cancel the opening night concert. Musicians stood ready to perform the opening night program for the community and were devastated at the news of the cancellation. The Union had no knowledge of this cancellation until the BPO press release on August 18. The BPO had asked the Union to agree to a 48-hour press blackout back when negotiations started in April. The Union honored that agreement, and the BPO violated it by going to the press without giving the Union the notice.
6. How does the BPO 2014/2015 musicians’ per service pay (per rehearsal or concert) stack up against pay for musicians in other regional orchestras?
BPO section players currently make $85 per service. Some BPO musicians also play in other regional orchestras that currently pay $105-126 per service, including Symphoria, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony and the Hartford Symphony. That means musicians currently make an average of 30% less playing with the BPO than with these other orchestras.
7. What did the musician mileage benefit actually cost the BPO during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 concert seasons?
In data the BPO Management provided to the Union during negotiations, it was evident that the total Mileage expense for the past two seasons was approximately $59,000 and not the higher amounts BPO has stated in their press releases and interviews with the press. The BPO did not explain the difference, either at the negotiating table or subsequently to the press. This figure represents 7.6% of BPO’s total stated projected budget of $779,677 for the 2014/2015 season.
8. While the BPO was insisting on cutting all mileage compensation for the musicians, did the BPO propose any cuts to salary and benefit costs for non-musician employees?
No. In fact, during the mediation session on August 12, when asked by the Union’s Negotiating Team why BPO is projecting growth of $48,000 in Admin salaries for the current fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015, BPO Board Chair Maureen Wilson stated, “We are adding positions.” She later stated that they were not adding positions but that a position was temporarily vacant (Director of Development).
9. Do the musicians in the orchestra receive any benefits in addition to their per service wages?
None of the musicians in the orchestra receive any health or pension benefits from the BPO.
10. What percentage of total salary and benefit expense goes to the Orchestra and what percentage goes to BPO’s Administration and the Music Director?
According to BPO’s Form 990 filings and Audited Financials provided to the Union Negotiating Team, during the 2013-2014 fiscal year 50% of all salary and benefit expense was paid to the orchestra musicians and 50% to the Administration and Music Director. However, back in the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the percentage going to the musicians was 55% while Administrative and Music Director received 45%. The entire shift in these percentages has been driven by growth in Administrative salary and benefit costs.
11.What did a musician receive in mileage under the old contract?
Musicians were paid, at most, $0.41 per mile, although the actual amount was less because the first 20 miles were not reimbursed. This is substantially lower than the current IRS rate, which is $0.575 per mile.
12. When was the last time the mileage rate went up in the contract?
The last time musicians received an increase in mileage compensation was 2010/2011, when the rate went up from .39/mile to .41/mile.
13. Did the BPO pay for hotel or per diem for musicians who stay for the week?
No. Under the old contract, musicians paid for hotel and meals out of their own pockets.