Utah Symphony Labor Dispute is Over, but Musicians Will Keep an Eye on Administration

Classic Arts News   Utah Symphony Labor Dispute is Over, but Musicians Will Keep an Eye on Administration
The musicians of the Utah Symphony voted March 25 to accept a new contract, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The three-year contract, which was approved by a vote of 59 to 10, includes a two-year wage freeze. Associate concertmaster Gerald Elias said that the freeze was the musicians' "contribution to helping put the Utah Symphony back on its feet."

The musicians have been performing under a "talk and play" agreement since their contract expired last August. The new contract keeps musicians' base pay at $57,000 for two years, with an option for a third year. Working conditions and benefits stay the same for the duration of the contract.

The end of the labor dispute is the latest in a series of financial- and administrative-recovery efforts for the Utah Symphony & Opera, the organization formed by a merger of the orchestra and the opera company in 2002. After the merger, which was intended to create business efficiencies, the US&O posted structural deficits of $1.7 million in 2003 and $3.2 million in 2004, and independent consultant Thomas W. Morris projected a deficit of $3.2 million for 2005.

Morris was brought in to study the organization's financial and administrative situation when musicians demanded that someone outside the organization look at the US&O's dwindling audiences, ticket sales, and donations. Most of Morris's recommendations, which included a mid-March deadline for settling the musicians' labor dispute, have been accepted by the board.

The recommendations have already effected a change in leadership; Anne Ewers, the company's CEO, has relinquished the title of general manager for the opera company. She will continue to direct the Deer Valley Music Festival. Morris felt that Ewers' workload was overwhelming.

The musicians have formed a watchdog committee to track implementation of Morris's recommendations, and a secret ballot taken March 25 was split about whether the changes in administration have gone far enough. Joe Hatch, attorney for the musicians' union, said, "A minority of the musicians are saying that the people who got us into this mess are still here."

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