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New York Musicians' Union Signs Contracts With Freelance Orchestras

By Ben Mattison
11 Jun 2005

Local 802, the New York musicians' union, has completed its contract negotiations with almost all of the city's major freelance orchestras, according to a report on the union's web site.

Agreements have been reached with the New York Pops, American Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Riverside Symphony, and Bronx Arts Ensemble. The union and the Queens Symphony have reached an agreement in principle but have not finalized the contract's language.

Traditionally, the first of the freelance agreements sets a benchmark for subsequent contracts. The current round of the contract talks began late last year with the New York Pops; the basic terms of the union's three-year agreement with the Pops, completed in December, have been adopted by the other ensembles. These include an increase in pay from $200 to $225 per concert over the course of the contract and a one-percent increase in pension payments in its final year.

All of the orchestras also agreed to ban the use of the controversial Sinfonia system—termed a "virtual orchestra machine" by Local 802—which can be used to replace or supplement live musicians. The ban is unlikely to have a practical effect on the groups, but Local 802 has required the ban in all of its contracts since clashing with the Opera Company of Brooklyn over the device in 2003 and 2004.

Several of the contracts include clauses specific to an orchestra. For example, the American Symphony Orchestra agreed to compensate musicians who are displaced from the orchestra's concerts at the Bard Music Festival by regular Bard Festival players, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic agreed to pay musicians at or close to union scale for education and community concerts, and to make pension and healthcare contributions for those concerts.




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