BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 season is just days away from beginning, but musicians and management have yet to come to an agreement that would bring the music back to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Monday night, BSO management said it had offered the musicians two options to avert a strike and end a lockout that began this summer.
The BSO said the first option, a one-year agreement with no strike and no lockout, would include the continuation of a comprehensive benefits package, a restricted fund of between $1 million and $1.3 million to be used to provide extra compensation for musicians in the summer and the creation of a committee with musician participation to shape the organization’s future.
The second option, the BSO said, would be for musicians to return to work under their current contract through December 31 with the promise of no strikes or lockouts as contract negotiations continue.
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“We urge our musicians to accept the offer of our Board and management in which we worked to address concerns about compensation and benefits, and the size of the Orchestra, while helping us to move forward together,” BSO President Peter Kjome said in a statement.
The musicians, however, called management’s offer a “take it or leave it” situation that would cut their wages and benefits by 20 percent.
“The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer,” the group said. “We organized prominent donors to assist in this process. These generous donors brought $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract.”
Despite those efforts, no agreement has been reached, which the musicians called “incredibly disheartening.”
“This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution,” the group said.
The new season is supposed to begin this weekend, but the musicians have floated the idea of not taking the stage without a new contract.