Dr Stanley Romanstein would like the world to know that the musicians he has locked out of their workplace and whose wages he has stopped are only telling half the truth. In the interest of balance, we publish his statement:
STATEMENT FROM STANLEY E. ROMANSTEIN, Ph.D.
PRESIDENT & CEO, ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The musicians’ press release erroneously seeks to drive a wedge between the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) Board and the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC) Governing Board. This is a mistake, both in fact and in strategy.
The ASO and WAC Boards do appreciate the strides the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association (ASOPA) has made from their original position, but the Boards have been united in saying that it is not enough.
Unfortunately the ASOPA representatives continue to oversimplify the complexity of the ASO’s annual budget and deficit to suit their argument. While it’s true the deficit for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 was $2.7M, it is important to note that is inclusive of $1.8M in non-sustainable sources (i.e. bequests and one-time gifts) without which the true operating deficit is $4.5M. This deficit is expected to trend even higher in FY2013. The fact is the ASO has been running an annual deficit of nearly $5M and the accumulated deficit is approaching $20M. We have had a member of ASOPA on our Board of Directors for 15 years, and we have had two Orchestra musicians on our finance committee for a decade, so this should not come as a surprise to the Orchestra.
ASOPA continues to state that we are asking them to shoulder the sole burden of lowering expenses and balancing the budget, ignoring the fact that, since 2006, average staff compensation has been reduced by 1.7%. During this same period, average musician compensation has risen 23.6%.
Since negotiations began in March, our position has been that total compensation must change, and we’ve offered choices about how that happens. The average compensation of the musicians is $131,000, which currently includes 100% free health and dental coverage, free instrument insurance, retirement pension, and eight (8) weeks of paid vacation. We have asked our 68 staff members to forego raises, endure layoffs, accept weeks of mandatory furloughs, and to contribute to a healthcare plan which asks them to shoulder between 17 and 31 percent of their health insurance costs — and they have. To increase revenues we’ve asked our audiences to pay slightly higher ticket costs and, overwhelmingly, they’ve said yes. We’ve asked donors to make even greater personal financial contributions, and they’ve responded generously.
It is true that the musicians allowed their contract to expire on August 25, despite an offer on the negotiating table, so they are no longer being paid a salary. The musicians are now inactive employees, and therefore ineligible for benefits. It is unfortunate, but this is not news to ASOPA — whether this was fully shared with the players they represent is something we cannot confirm.
Again we applaud the distance the ASOPA has come, but we cannot settle at this amount if we are to ensure the long-term health of the Orchestra. We have presented the Musicians’ Union with our last, best, and final offer — they have yet to respond.