Baltimore Symphony locks out musicians over stalled contract talks

Mon Jun 17, 2019 at 11:32 am

The problems at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have gone from bad to worse. 

The board of directors announced Sunday night that it would lock out the BSO musicians, Local 40-543, as of Monday morning. Management had threatened this action if the months-long contract negotiations with the musicians remained unresolved by the end of the subscription season this weekend.

At issue in the standoff was the status of the BSO as a full-time orchestra. Management has insisted the orchestra must become a part-time ensemble and has proposed cutting back the season from 52 weeks to 40 weeks. At the end of May, management cancelled the orchestra’s summer season, including a significant festival celebrating contemporary music composed by women, mere weeks after announcing it.

That comes after the Maryland state government allocated $3.2 million in funding to the BSO, although that money has yet to be released. Management noted in their press release that this “anticipated funding … is very unlikely,” although it provided no evidence to support that claim. Their position remains that the orchestra is “facing serious cash flow issues following years of substantial losses.”

For their part, the musicians have countered that the loss of their salaries, as well as their health care, which will be cut after June 30, “is happening with less than three weeks’ notice.” In their press release, the musicians also note that they “learned of their impending unemployment through social media rather than directly from BSO Management.”

Music director Marin Alsop has made no public statement on the matter. Her salary reportedly topped the $1 million mark in the 2014-15 season, a first for a woman and for a BSO music director’s compensation. The latest public data shows that Alsop took a 16% pay cut in the 2015-2016 season. Alsop’s current contract as music director extends through 2021.

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