Hartford Symphony Orchestra makes final collective bargaining agreement offer to American Federation of Musicians on January 14

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Best and final offer expires on January 18 at 11:59 pm
HSO Board of Directors meeting scheduled for January 19

Hartford, CT (January 15, 2016)

A meeting between representatives of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and union representatives of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 400 took place on Thursday, January 14, at 7pm. At the meeting, the HSO issued a best and final, comprehensive proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement to the musicians’ union. HSO management has been in negotiations with the AFM since January, 2015.

This comprehensive proposal addresses the HSO’s immediate financial crisis, including the prospect of exhausting its available cash resources within a matter of weeks, and a shutdown of the orchestra within the same timeframe, as well as longer-term structural problems.

The financial decline of the HSO is not a recent phenomenon. Due to an unsustainable business model, the HSO has historically been severely undercapitalized and has posted annual operating deficits of up to $1.3 million for over a decade.

Through its offer, the HSO is looking to achieve fiscal solvency through a realistic budget. The offer asks for approximately $450,000 in annual concessions from the union, primarily by a reduction in the yearly service guarantees to the musicians.  The “service guarantee” is the minimum number of services (mainly rehearsals and performances) each musician is guaranteed, and compensated for, each season.  With this final proposal made Thursday evening, the HSO offers to make up an additional $700,000 shortfall through a combination of general and administrative expense reductions and interim fundraising. 

If the AFM agrees to this final offer, all lines of HSO programming will be maintained, including its Masterworks Series, POPS! Series, Sunday Serenades Chamber Music Series, Discovery Series, and Talcott Mountain Music Festival.

With this agreement, the HSO will be better positioned for long-term survival, and more appropriately-sized to the current Hartford market. Although guaranteed services would be reduced from current levels, HSO musicians would still be guaranteed more than twice as many services as musicians in nearby comparable markets: the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Symphony Orchestra, which provide approximately 45 guaranteed services each.

The HSO has been fortunate to raise over $30 million in donations over the past 10 years. Revenue from ticket sales covers only roughly 50% of the HSO’s operating costs; therefore musician salaries, staff salaries, music rental fees, etc., are partially covered by contributions made by donors to the HSO Annual Fund.

By eliminating the structural deficit, the HSO will be well-positioned to mount an anticipated endowment campaign for the first time in 15 years. Because of the deficit elimination, donors will be assured that their gifts will stay safely in the endowment and not be used to defray operating losses.

“We feel the offer addresses the immediate financial concerns of the Hartford Symphony, as well as the structural deficits this organization has maintained for many years,” said Jeff Verney, Chairman of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors. “With a ratified contract, we will have begun the work of creating a strong foundation for the HSO, and we can look ahead to continuing the great music of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for years to come.”

The HSO’s best and final offer expires at 11:59pm, Monday, January 18, 2016. The HSO Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, January 19.