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Orchestra Musicians Agree to Arbitration Under Certain Terms

Louisville Orchestra management is meeting today to discuss the latest contract offer from the musicians union, but management officials already say the offer is too vague.The orchestra has not performed in over a year and the players and management have been unable to agree to terms of a new contract. A letter sent to orchestra management this week says musicians are willing to enter into binding arbitration with the management, under several conditions that orchestra CEO Robert Birman called vague.“If you read the letter very closely there are elements that are intentionally vague and unexplained, which may or may not require commitments beyond what the reliable commitments are for the Louisville Orchestra," he said.Orchestra management gave musicians until Monday to answer their request to enter into binding arbitration for a three-year contract for a smaller, less expensive orchestra. If the players declined, management said they would begin hiring outside musicians to fill the missing seats. The threat has been made at least twice before, and Birman said he’s unsure the response by musicians this week is an appropriate response.“What may appear as progress remains to be reviewed and we have fundamental guiding principals that remain unchanged and that is the Louisville orchestra’s costs have to be equal to its reliable income," Birman told WFPL.In their offer, the musicians agree to enter into binding arbitration under certain conditions including a review of the orchestra’s board, but the letter does not state the number of musicians who are ready to work, and Birman calls that the fundamental issue driving the economics of the Louisville orchestra.The following is an except from the letter sent by Louisville Orchestra Musician Association counsel David O’Brien Suetholz to board president Chuck Maisch.- That a mutually agreeable, nationally recognized consultant in the orchestral arts profession be hired to review operations, finances, and long-range plans of the Louisville Orchestra for a 1-year period. This person must have a successful history of running orchestras and working with orchestras comparable to the Louisville Orchestra. The selected person will oversee and analyze every aspect of the organization -- its structure, operations, and collective bargaining agreement with the Louisville Orchestra Musicians’ Association.

o The consultant will have the authority to make binding recommendations as to the structure of the Louisville Orchestra, including its management, board, and contractual agreements with its members, conductors and visiting artists;

o The Louisville Orchestra Musicians’ Association will commit to binding themselves to the recommended changes;

o The consultant will be paid from existing funds of the Louisville Orchestra and the Fund for the Arts.

- In the interim, the musicians will agree to a 1-year Bridge Agreement covering, as the LOI has proposed, 30 weeks of work under the proposed $925/week base pay for the remaining musicians (all those employed as of May 2011 who have not resigned voluntarily in writing) under the terms of the most recent agreement. Musicians who, as you have acknowledged, may need to be hired to perform parts or instruments missing from the current remaining musicians will be covered by the same agreement.

- The musicians are also willing to donate revenues received by Keep Louisville Symphonic efforts to help offset the cost of health care expenses.

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