San Francisco Opera and AGMA Agree to New Five-Year Contract

Classic Arts News   San Francisco Opera and AGMA Agree to New Five-Year Contract
 
San Francisco Opera and the American Guild of Music Artists, the union representing the company's soloists, choristers, dancers and backstage staff, have approved a new contract. The agreement, announced by the company yesterday, is retroactive to February of this year and runs through February 2011.

Where AGMA'S expired contract with San Francisco Opera, negotiated during a fiscal crisis, included a two-year pay freeze and one 2% cost-of-living adjustment, the new agreement grants annual salary increases of 3-4%. In addition, the chorus now has an Annual Compensation Guarantee, similar to the one the company's orchestra has had for several years, which provides for a minimum number of weeks' work (spread throughout the year) as well as vacation and overtime pay.

As is the case with a number of other major opera companies and orchestras in the US, the new San Francisco Opera-AGMA contract replaces high upfront payments to musicians for the right to broadcast performances with what the company is calling an Audience Development Premium, a percentage payment for rights to use recorded performances in all promotional and educational activities on television, radio and the Internet.

The Audience Development Premium arrangement was negotiated and implemented over the past year, separately from the main agreement — and, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, those negotiations established trust between union and management that improved a formerly tense relationship. (The previous negotiations, in 2003, led to serious threats of a strike.) "There's been a bad history here," company artistic administrator (and head negotiator) Shane Gasbarra told the paper, "and this was a way to move things forward with a more productive partnership."

"The negotiations were intense and hard fought," said union Vice President and company chorus member Colby Roberts, "But we felt they respected us, and we certainly respect them."

The negotiations also led to the settlement of outstanding grievances with the company by union members, as well as the dropping of a two-year-old federal lawsuit by the union to force the company to follow previously negotiated grievance procedures.


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