ISO, musicians continue contract stalemate

Published: .
Updated: .

It has almost been a month since management for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra locked the doors to the Circle Theater. Sunday afternoon, the musicians were preparing for one of their first performances of the season, but doing so on their own, at the Palladium.

According to Richard Graef, a musician, "We are raising the funding. We are doing the booking."

Since ISO management locked the musicians out, they are making ends meet by working on their own.

"On September 10th, they locked us out and they cut off health benefits, which adds a giant level of stress to all the musicians," said Graef. "We are unemployed and we have filed for unemployment insurance. The society has told us they are going fight us getting unemployment insurance." he added.

Since coming to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 20 years ago, Graef has been through seven contract negotiations. This one has been the most grueling.

At issue is money. Blame the economy, or any number of issues. Donations to the ISO foundation are down and musicians have been asked to take more than a 30 percent cut in pay, plus reduce the number of performances and not replace musicians that retire or leave.

The union has been willing to accept a cut in pay, but cutting performances and members, they believe, is a start of a slippery slope.

In order to get the symphony's financial house in order, ISO management says they have to raise 50 to 100 percent more money than in years past, or just over $50-million in the next five years.

The union has been told the orchestra needs new money from new donors right away. And the musicians have been asked to help, which they are willing to do.  However, if they fall short, management is asking for a termination clause in the new contract, "Their next step was to put a phrase in the contract if they could raise $5-million in the next six months from all new money, they would remove that contract termination clause. We would have to sign the contract now and hope they would raise $5 million in the next six months" says Graef.

By the time the musicians went on stage at the Palladium Sunday night, the offer before both sides had been rejected.

Here is a link to the ISO web site with the details of the latest offer.