Last week the NAC asked orchestra members to sign a confidentiality agreement stipulating they would not reveal internal information, prompting an outcry from musicians and local media.
The NAC said the policy is intended to safeguard credit card data and other personal information, and has applied to human resources and finance personnel since 1998. NACO members, however, saw the policy as a gagging order that would prevent them from speaking negatively about the organization even with family members.
The NAC has agreed to waive the requirement that musicians return a sign-off form. "We understand that there is a body of information that is properly kept confidential, and the NACO musicians have no issue with that," said Francine Schutzman, president of the local musicians' union.
Jayne Watson, director of communications at the NAC, said, "We are pleased that the NAC and the Local have resolved this issue through some very productive face-to-face communication. NAC patrons and employees can remain confident that the NAC will continue to protect any private information entrusted to us."
The NAC also sent a strongly worded letter to the Ottawa Citizen denying allegations that the confidentiality agreement was intended to counteract the government's proposed Accountability Act, or to prevent leaks to the press about conductor Pinchas Zukerman.
The Accountability Act aims to help whistleblowers in Crown corporations expose wrongdoing. As a Crown corporation the NAC would fall under such legislation. It was implied in various Canadian media that the NAC was attempting to exclude its employees from government protection and to bolster its reputation from further embarrassing revelations about Zukerman, who has made headlines in recent months with his lengthy sabbatical and comments about "rotten apples" in the orchestra.
Watson said the NAC's confidentiality policy was first proposed in 2005, significantly predating the recent Accountability Act; she added that its extension to all NAC employees was planned three months before Zukerman took his sabbatical.
She told PlaybillArts, "The media made it look like the NAC is trying to restrict free speech, but as an artistic organization, if we're not about freedom of expression, what are we about?"