11:23am

Tue September 6, 2011
Kentucky Arts and Culture

Labor Troubles Grow at LOU Orchestra

Louisville Orchestra management is expected make two decisions regarding its ongoing labor dispute this week. After months of talks with no agreement, Mayor Greg Fischer joined contract negotiations with the management and musicians. Last week, he announced that an anonymous donor had come forward to pay for a nationally-recognized consultant to work with mediators. The mayor is encouraging both sides to welcome the help. Orchestra CEO Robert Birman says the management will decide this week whether to accept the offer. The musicians had previously sought to bring in an outside expert, but Birman says it didn’t work out.

“Cost was a consideration,” he says. “Other considerations were the fact that we have a lot of expertise at the table already between the musicians, the board and the staff. And we’ve had many people from all over this country with extensive knowledge of the industry that have already inserted themselves in the process.”

The chair of the musicians committee welcomed the donation.

Orchestra management will also decide this week whether more concerts need to be called off. Performances for this month and next month were canceled due to the lack of a contract, and a 60-day notice must be given for further cancellations.

“In a sense it’s a rolling deadline,” says Birman. “It varies month to month based on the date of the first rehearsal for each month. We don’t think of it as a hard and fast deadline for external purposes.”

The management has sought to establish a tiered system, where musicians would be signed to contracts ranging in length from 10 to 30 weeks. The musicians have countered with an offer to cut the number of full time players from 71 to 60 and to cut the season down to 35 weeks. The number of musicians would then be increased in subsequent seasons.