Orchestra, musicians sign deal to break year-long labor dispute


by WHAS11


Posted on April 25, 2012 at 8:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 25 at 8:44 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- About a year since they played together as the Louisville Orchestra and nearly two since the Orchestra filed for bankruptcy, the two sides signed a deal at the Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

 Mayor Greg Fischer had to nudge a positive reaction from those watching, who had been used to months of negative contract discussions.

 It happened against a backdrop of empty seats, and this agreement is music to the Louisville Orchestra's ears.

 "We are ready to put the past behind us and look forward to performing again," said violinist and Louisville Musicians Association spokeswoman Kim Tichenor.

 The contract is a one year deal and is a bridge to further negotiations.

 The musicians will not be paid less weekly but will play less, a shorter 30-week season which will mean less overall salary. They will lose vacation and sick time. The once-bankrupt orchestra must hire up to 57 musicians, down from 71 in the previous deal.

 An independent arbitrator will help the sides reach a longer multi-year agreement for the future, something about which both sides expressed confidence.

 "A lot of the focus has been on the musicians, the number of musicians, the contract, and I think we got tied up in that language," said Tichenor. "We're very pleased at this arbitration process is really going to take a look at this process as a whole."

 Now comes a challenge possibly more difficult than playing symphonies, filling the Kentucky Performing Arts Center seats again.

 "We're one city," said Mayor Fischer. "We're one community, one family. Sometimes we have disagreements. Sometimes the fights are public, sometimes the fights are private, but at the end of the day it's us coming together to make it happen for the community."

 The musicians hired a public relations firm and had help from Metro Council President Jim King, who says he got involved within the last two months, to get the deal done.

 Many of the contract details are confidential, but it will cost the orchestra $1.6 million less than the previous deal.

 The musicians are expected start playing again when the season opens later this year.