San Francisco Opera, musicians union ratify 3-year agreement

The labor agreement provides an increase in the weekly rate of pay, and stable employment of 28 weeks a year (including paid vacation) for the 69 members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in exchange for contractual changes that provide the Opera Association both current savings and new flexibility in reducing expenses.

Nixon in China. Photo by Tim Matheson/Vancouver Opera.
Nixon in China. Photo by Tim Matheson/Vancouver Opera.
Nixon in China. Photo by Tim Matheson/Vancouver Opera.
SF Opera will stage Nixon in China as part of the 2011-12 season. Photo by Tim Matheson/Vancouver Opera.

The San Francisco Opera Association and members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 6 today jointly announced they have successfully negotiated a new three-year contract agreement effective August 1, 2011.

The labor agreement provides an increase in the weekly rate of pay, and stable employment of 28 weeks a year (including paid vacation) for the 69 members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in exchange for contractual changes that provide the Opera Association both current savings and new flexibility in reducing expenses.

Coinciding with this new contract, Local 6’s international parent union, the American Federation of Musicians, joins San Francisco Opera in announcing the conclusion of a separate, new Integrated Media Agreement that covers the creation and distribution of audio and audio-visual media.

Both contracts were ratified by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra on July 22 after three months of negotiations.

The Local 6 Agreement calls for rate increases of two percent in the first year and three percent in each of the final years of the agreement, and an increase in the Electronic Media Guarantee from $2375 in the expiring Agreement to $5000 by 2013, while providing more than $1 million in savings each year to the San Francisco Opera through changes to compensation and healthcare structures.

The Integrated Media Agreement contains important new provisions that will enable San Francisco Opera to more fully realize the potential of its in-house high-definition media center. These provisions will improve the ability of San Francisco Opera and its musicians to produce, promote and distribute opera recordings through all media platforms, including DVDs and CDs as well as television, cinema and the internet.

This new phase of media activity is pending the approval of other unions, including the American Guild of Musical Artists, which is currently negotiating with San Francisco Opera.

This is an important and historic media agreement for both parties as the new provisions allow for distribution of increased digital products in more flexible ways, both of newly filmed operas and archival material, according to San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley and Deborah Newmark of the American Federation of Musicians.

“As new media evolve, we will now have the ability to evolve with them and meet the changing needs of our audiences,” said Gockley. “Opera may come from ‘the Old World,’ but this agreement clearly takes us into the new world and enables us to further entertain, educate and enchant new generations of opera lovers.”

“The American Federation of Musicians has been working with symphony, opera and ballet institutions across the country to modernize and streamline the terms and conditions governing media creation and distribution,” said Newmark. “We applaud San Francisco Opera for working with us to face the future of media in ways that benefit the public, the Opera and the musicians.”

Both parties said they kept in mind the financial constraints of San Francisco Opera, which has faced deficits in the last two seasons. The new Agreement is a major step towards attaining a more stable fiscal operating model for the company.

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