Philadelphia Orchestra Management Derails Negotiations Ahead of Contract Expiration

By Francisco Salazar

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc.’s (POKC) management team have suddenly terminated negotiations before the Sept. 10 expiration of the Philadelphia Orchestra musicians’ union contract.

According to a press release, “after bargaining all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, progress was being made toward a deal. On Friday evening, an agreement was made between the union and Orchestra management that both sides would continue bargaining late into the night in hopes of reaching a deal. However, as union negotiators were preparing modified proposals to respond to requests made by management, the POKC bargaining team suddenly pulled the plug on negotiations by presenting their ‘best and final offer.’

According to the press release “management presented a parental leave policy that’s worse than the existing policy” as well as “an absurd, draconian code of conduct that would discipline musicians for almost anything—including criticizing or voicing concern about orchestra management or the direction of the ensemble—giving management extreme control over these professionals.” Additionally the management “presented a financial proposal which would continue to worsen the disparity between Philly musicians and their peers in the nation’s other premier orchestras, and keep Philadelphia’s world-class musicians dead last in compensation among their peers.”

In a statement, Nate West, Acting Assistant Principal Bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra said, “Our negotiating team was shocked and disturbed by management’s final offer, especially in light of our agreement to work together until a deal was done Friday night. Our musicians are among the best in the world, and management’s final offer seeks to silence our voices as we raise concerns about the direction of our ensemble, diminish our family leave benefits, and keep us dead last among our peers in compensation. Ultimately, as a young musician, I have seen my peers choose not to audition for the Philadelphia Orchestra because of our uncompetitive salary and benefits—something that historically would have been considered unthinkable. The POKC’s final offer, and its refusal to continue bargaining, is unacceptable and demoralizing. As painful as it is for me to say, the POKC seems genuinely disinterested in ensuring that this ensemble continues to be one of the best in the world. ”

The union negotiating committee unanimously recommended to the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra that they vote the proposal down. The orchestra will vote on Monday.

Back in August, the Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra voted to authorize a strike in the event that negotiations with the Philadelphia Orchestra Kimmel Center, Inc. for a new collective bargaining agreement broke down. The vote saw 95 percent of participating musicians vote in favor of authorizing the strike.