September 5, 2014 by Jenny Jarvie
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The musicians discussed publicly for the first time Friday the depth of the divide in negotiations. One of the biggest points of contention is the number of musicians. In 2012, management cut the number of full-time players from 95 to 88, which musicians insist is a bare minimum to maintain a high-caliber orchestra. So far, ASO has not committed to upholding any fixed quantity of musicians.
“This is a huge issue for us,” said Paul Murphy, associate principal violist and president of the ASO Players’ Association, noting that management’s refusal to specify the orchestra’s size is unprecedented in the Atlanta symphony’s contract history. “Every major American orchestra lists a fixed number in its collective bargaining agreement that indicates how big the orchestra will be.” The absence of any commitment, he said, only creates more uncertainty about ASO’s future.
After more than eight months of talks with the ASO management, Murphy said there has been “almost no progress” that would maintain the “quality of artistry of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.” Management’s proposals, he said, have only sought to “marginalize and diminish our great orchestra.”