Omaha Symphony Contract Negotiations Collapse

Classic Arts News   Omaha Symphony Contract Negotiations Collapse
Contract talks between the Omaha Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have disintegrated.

The Omaha Symphony Musicians Organization has issued a press release stating that negotiations broke down on May 31 without an agreement. No further talks have been scheduled.

According to, Craig Fuller, a member of the musicians' negotiating team and principal tuba player, said the musicians rejected the Symphony Association's proposed 2.5% salary increase for the 2007 contract.

However, Rob Hallam, the orchestra's president and chief executive officer, told the Omaha World Herald that discussions have not stalled, but are simply preliminary.

"From our perspective, there isn't a fallout," he said. "We disagree with their interpretation of events ... We are open and willing to discuss anything with respect to proposals," although he added that "discussing doesn't mean that you agree."

According to the World Herald, Omaha SO contracts are usually renewed annually or every other year, depending on the terms. Over the past few years, negotiations have resulted in some 2% salary increases and one 3% increase, as well as modest increases in what musicians are expected to pay for health insurance. This year, however, musicians rejected the Omaha Symphony Association's proposed 2.5% salary increase for the coming season.

"The musicians are frustrated by Symphony management's lack of respect for the contributions made by its musicians and their need to earn a living wage," Fuller told the paper. He added that those wages don't equal those of the orchestra's administrative staff.

In 2005 section musicians earned about $28,000, while Hallam earned about $205,000 as CEO.

Thomas Kluge, principal violist, told the World Herald that the issue isn't simply money, but also the perceived lack of willingness on the part of management to negotiate.

The musicians will reportedly finish this season's performances as scheduled. But at tomorrow night's pops concert with Johnny Mathis, musicians will distribute leaflets and wear red, white and blue "unity" ribbons on stage, as they did at last weekend's classical concerts.

Hallam told the paper that there is time to reach an agreement before the next season. The current contract ends June 30; the next starts July 1, but the first concert of the 2007-08 season isn't until September 17.

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