Presenting United Front through Better Communication

Article excerpt

Traditionally, this time of year is when many symphony orchestras go on tour. Some have domestic tours, while others travel to Europe, South America, or Asia. Also, many participate in summer festivals or summer residencies. Most of these tours are covered by the orchestra's collective bargaining agreement, negotiated between the employer and the AFM, with a negotiating committee, tour committee, travel committee, etc.

My focus, however, is not on the legitimately negotiated tours. It's on the increasing number of foreign tours being sold by promoters, both here and abroad, to small companies, fledgling companies, and entrepreneurs who fancy themselves as show business moguls. These tours rarely work out as expected-the money changes, the travel changes, per diem changes (if there is any), accommodations change, and so on. And for some reason, China now seems to be a popular destination.

Here are two quick examples. First, three-and-a-half weeks in China, less than $1,200-that's not per week, but $1,200 total. Second, an e-mail forwarded to me wondering if members could play four rehearsals and five performances of an opera for $30 a show (no mention of rehearsal pay). Here's the hook: musicians will then be considered for a China tour. The incredibly sad part is that musicians will take this work. We'll hear "I need the money" or "It's a paid vacation." When you travel halfway around the world with your instrument, along with 40 or 50 other musicians, to play concerts, it's not a vacation-it's a gig! If you want to take a vacation, pack the family in the car and drive to Atlantic City.

The Federation has an agreement called Pamphlet F-minimum wages and conditions for foreign tours. Aside from the scales, the agreement has these stipulations:

* All expenses for lodging shall be paid by the employer

* Per diem at 55% of US State Department per diem schedule

* Broadcast and recording restrictions

* Contracts must be approved by the AFM prior to leaving the country

* Instrument insurance

* Internal transportation in the tour country

* Transportation and security for instruments

* Round-trip tickets must be given to musicians prior to departure

* 10% pension

* Wage-surety bond deposit of 50% of contract total with the AFM prior to musicians' departure

* Purchaser is responsible for all taxes (state/federal income tax, social insurance tax, disability, etc. …