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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians to be locked out beginning Monday

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Jun 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 08:59:23-04

BALTIMORE — Citing urgent financial challenges, the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has decided to lockout its musicians effective Monday.

On Sunday evening, the decision was handed down after management and the musicians' union, Local 40-543, failed to come to a collective bargaining agreement by the end of the regular subscription season.

The BSO say they've endured cash flow issues following years of substantial financial losses, and have even made efforts to increase revenues and manage costs by relying on a smaller and less expensive administrative staff.

Another concern, is the fact that state funding is up in the air. While legislators have pushed for funds to be made available to the BSO, Governor Larry Hogan has been hesitant to sign off, making funding this fiscal year unlikely.

The Symphony says the funding battle has forced them to cancel the New Music Festival and three summer programs that had been scheduled for May 30.

A previously scheduled June 4 bargaining session was canceled at the request of the musicians, according to the BSO, and no sessions have taken place or been scheduled since, even though the BSO says they've reached out multiple times to re-schedule.

The BSO says they were left with no other choice but to move forward with the lockout to immediately confront these very serious financial issues and to help preserve the organization.

In response to the lock out, the Baltimore Symphony Musicians posted a statement on their Facebook page;

"As of 12:01 a.m., June 17, 2019, the management of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra locked out its musicians. Management stated that they are out of cash and will not pay the musicians’ salary. Health insurance will be cut off after June 30. All of this is happening with less than three weeks’ notice to the artists who make the music on the stage and who learned of their impending unemployment through social media rather than directly from BSO Management."

"The most appalling aspect of this destructive decision by BSO leadership is that it is completely unnecessary. BSO leadership points to an average $1.6 million annual shortfall in the operations of the orchestra. However, what they don’t mention is that at the same time, the BSO’s endowment trust continues to grow in value. In FY17, total assets grew by $2.4 million."

"History has taught the Baltimore Symphony Musicians that concessions don’t solve the problems of chronic mismanagement. The musicians have agreed to seven concessionary contracts since 2003, representing millions of dollars of give-backs to the organization each time management claimed financial distress, as they did in 2004, 2010, and now again in 2019."

"The truth is that musician costs have remained flat over the last decade while expenses have spiked at various times, most recently in 2016 when the management overspent irresponsibly during the centenary year, allowing the budget to balloon to $34.6 million."

"The musicians are asking for a 2% cost of living raise and for management to observe the minimum contractually required complement of full-time musicians, along with maintaining current work rules. It is essential that we preserve these basic elements if we are to continue to attract and retain the highest caliber musicians. We will continue to fight for these principles. It is essential to preserve the world-class orchestra that has been built over the last 103 years and to sustain it into the next century."