Musicians of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra walk away from contract offer - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Musicians of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra walk away from contract offer

Madison (WKOW) -- from WI Chamber Orchestra:  The musicians of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) walked away Wednesday from an employment proposal.

  "It is disheartening in these troubled times to have our musicians be unwilling to perform," said Doug Gerhart, executive director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

  "We have been meeting for more than 8 months, and have offered wage increases, a pension plan, guaranteed work opportunities, increased meal allowances, decreased attendance requirements, excused absences, a screening committee for auditions, electronic media clauses, and job security provisions," said Gerhart. "It is frustrating to be engaged in a bargaining process where there are no assurances that new concessions will result in a signed contract."

  Tom Grantham, WCO Board President, added, "We have a tremendous opportunity following our highly successful 25th Anniversary celebration of Concerts on the Square® to expand our mission, and share the remarkable talents of our musicians with our loyal audience. This contractual impasse is discouraging and we hope the musicians will soon begin to work with us to protect and grow this popular institution that we have all worked so hard to create. The board fully supports the WCO management and staff, as well as the expertise of Foley & Lardner Law Firm."

  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is a professional chamber orchestra dedicated to providing high quality musical performances designed to entertain, inform and enrich the quality of life of diverse local and regional audiences.

  Well known for Concerts on the Square® held at the State Capitol for six consecutive Wednesdays each summer, the WCO produces 24 concerts annually, including an indoor Masterworks series, holiday concerts, youth concerts, and run-out performances around the state.

  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is entering its 49th concert year and is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) contract with the musicians was scheduled to expire on August 31, 2008. 

  In the previous contract, ratified in 2003, the core musicians were given a 244% wage increase over the last 5 years, making them one of the highest compensated part-time orchestras in the United States.

  12 months ago, the WCO attempted to began negotiations with the musicians.

  The first meeting with the musicians on a new contract was not until February, 2008. 

  During subsequent sessions, WCO officials say there was little progress was made in the negotiation process, and at one point, the musicians walked out on the federal mediator whom they had requested.

  The orchestra is scheduled to perform a series of concerts this fall, beginning Friday, October 3, 2008.

  Due to the musician strike, the WCO may be forced to cancel the October Masterworks performance, and potentially, its popular Halloween concert, affecting several thousand concert-goers.

  The dispute was over minimum percentage of playing responsibilities, job security, and electronic media agreements.

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