CSO and players union agree to groundbreaking contract

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has announced a new three-year labor contract negotiated among the CSO management team and musician leadership, and ratified by the Cincinnati Musicians Association and the executive committee of the CSO board. The agreement immediately restores salaries to pre-pandemic rates with annual raises totaling 8% by the end of the contract, restarts the hiring process for vacant positions and significantly alters work rules to maximize flexibility and efficiency in scheduling. Further, a new task force comprised of musician and management leadership will review recruitment, audition and tenure/retention processes and substitute musician hiring practices to foster greater diversity, equity and inclusion on stage.

CSO President and CEO Jonathan Martin

The new agreement represents an industry-leading paradigm shift and is emblematic of a decades-long collaborative relationship between the CSO’s musicians, board and management team. It comes on the heels of a one-year, special contract extension for the 2020/21 season that had stipulated a 10% across-the-board salary reduction and opened the door for other adjustments to respond to the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic and its long-term implications.

The most progressive update is in the structure of each work week and how each musician can be utilized, allowing more scheduling efficiency and creating more revenue potential.

The redefined schedule is based upon weekly hours rather than the number of rehearsals and concerts. The number of base hours per week will remain constant, but moving forward, instead of encompassing eight uniform 2.5-hour services for the entire Orchestra, the number and length of calls can be tailored to address fluctuating circumstances and needs. Further, smaller groups of musicians can be deployed for multiple purposes.

The contract also calls for improved economics for the creation and dissemination of digital media content, additional compensation for participation on audition committees and in extra community engagement and learning activities, contributions to musicians’ 403(b) retirement plans and the inclusion of the orchestra’s librarians as part of the collective bargaining unit.

“The pandemic and societal issues around inclusiveness and equity have accelerated our need to find a new way to work together. In a collaborative partnership with our musicians, the management negotiating team, led by CSO Chief Operating Officer Robert McGrath, were able to look beyond our historic work rules to find shared solutions that work in our rapidly evolving environment,” said CSO President and CEO Jonathan Martin. “Going into this negotiation, we asked: ‘How can we tailor ourselves to be even more responsive to the needs of the community? How do we deploy our remarkable musicians beyond the scope of just performing on stage every week?’ The flexibility in this new contract will help us remain agile and gives us the tools to deliver what our audiences and community expect and need.”

Local 1 President Paul Frankenfeld

“The 2021-2024 contract extends the foundation for continuing progress that maintains the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as a cultural treasure for the community and a leading musical institution in the United States,” said Paul Frankenfeld, CSO associate principal viola and president of Local 1 of the American Federation of Musicians. “The challenges presented by performing during the pandemic underscored the shared need to update the way we do business together. Discussions were detailed and productive, resulting in progress on several issues, including a commitment from the Orchestra’s management to hold as many auditions as possible to replace the musicians we’ve lost to attrition and retirement. Attorney Barbara Jaccoma provided the Union and Musicians strong advice based on her twenty-year legacy of representation. The thoughtfulness and dedication of the five players committee members was unflagging, and co-chairpersons Jennifer Monroe and Michael Culligan brought firm resolve and cordiality to the discussions.”

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