Friday, July 24, 2009

First the actors, now the musicians...

The Skylight can get no relief. Now the union takes management to task for actions that have taken place since Dillner's been in charge.


To the Skylight Opera Theatre Board of Directors and community at large:

Skylight has been in the news of late, and for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, we are not entirely surprised by the current administration's actions, because we have experienced a similar struggle in our efforts to reach a contract agreement with them since June of 2008.

Beginning during our first meeting with management and continuing since then, it seems to us that Skylight has sought to avoid rather than reach an agreement. The company's initial offers were unwritten and quickly withdrawn. Then, in August of 2008 the company made a written wage offer that we thought contained an element we could recommend for ratification by our colleagues. However, Skylight subsequently informed us (in the presence of a federal mediator) that they didn't really mean what they had written. The company's current wage proposal is that we work the 2009/2010 season in exchange for rates in effect during 2006.

On the subject of money, we note that the company is planning to greatly reduce orchestra payroll by taking full advantage of the flexibility it has in deciding the number of musicians to hire for a given production and season. As things currently stand, Skylight plans to employ approximately half as many musicians next season as they have employed on average during each of the previous four seasons, and even fewer musicians will work next year if the company carries out its threat to withdraw offers already made and accepted for "The Barber of Seville." To be clear, it appears Skylight will save a lot of money next season as they move toward karaoke style productions.

The company also proposes what they describe as "very modest changes to old contract language." We do not agree that the proposed changes are modest, as they would require certain members of the orchestra to give up job security and our ability to resolve disputes through the usual, voluntary process. Recent events clearly demonstrate that agreeing to any of Skylight's proposals is not in our best interest.

In spite of all the current and growing acrimony, we believe the best route to reaching an agreement is through good faith bargaining. Therefore, we recently proposed a four-year agreement retroactive to July 1, 2008. If ratified, wages would remain unchanged from 2008 rates until the 2011/2012 season, when an across the board increase of 2.5% would take effect. We also proposed to fill orchestra roster vacancies with musicians Skylight has consistently hired to do the work and that the company conform to industry standards by providing sound shields to musicians upon request.

We are currently awaiting a substantive reply to our very generous proposal. At Catalano Square this morning, interim Board President Kurtenbach expressed the Board's desire to attempt to begin healing the rift between Skylight and its artists. We do not know if this is possible with the current management in place, but we do know that continuing or escalating a dispute with us would not be a logical first step in any such process.

In our view, the company's interests are not served by slashing away at the revenue generating artistry that is supposed to comprise Skylight's very core. The worst show in town, getting the most attention, is the collapse of Skylight Opera Theatre. This is no way to commemorate a 50th anniversary season.

Sincerely,

Skylight Opera Theatre Orchestra Committee
Joseph Ketchum
Pamela Simmons
Richard Tremarello

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