Orchestra on stage

Let The Music Play

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On 30 October 2020, the Fair Work Commission approved a new Enterprise Agreement between the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its musicians.

As the impacts of COVID-19 were first felt by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra back in February, the organisation had to confront the very real question of whether the MSO could survive this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.

Doors to performance venues were forced shut, live performances stopped, and the MSO, and in fact the entire Performing Arts industry, was classified as ‘non-essential’.

The decision in April to temporarily stand down the musicians of the MSO onto JobKeeper was considered necessary by the Board to preserve the financial health of the MSO but, most regrettably, had significant impact on our musicians – many of whom have poured their heart and soul into the MSO over years of distinguished service.

The MSO Board has pledged $1m from reserves to fund wages for musicians, and with the confirmation of JobKeeper 2.0 funding, management, musicians and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance negotiated to reach an Agreement on wages until the end of 2021.

These negotiations resulted in a new wage agreement that ensures equity across the organisation, with musicians and staff reducing their workload to 80% and receiving 80% of their salary until 31 December 2021. Following the decrease in JobKeeper 2.0 payments, the Agreement has also provided additional compassionate support for our long term casual musicians.

The Agreement also acknowledges that concerts will be shorter, often featuring multiple performances within a single day. This will benefit our audience and maximise our opportunities to earn revenue from ticket sales during this time of restrictions on capacities in venues in which our orchestra performs.

A key component within the new Agreement is the ability to revert to full pay at a time when the MSO’s financial position improves.

From Kirstin Kenny, President of the MSO Players Committee: “This year the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra struggled with the extraordinary challenges presented by Covid-19. After the unfortunate decision to stand the musicians down and the lengthy negotiations that followed, the musicians are pleased that an agreement has been reached and passed successfully through the Fair Work Commission. Although difficult at times, the negotiations provided an opportunity for the musicians to engage with the administration and Board on many issues.”

“We have already been involved with planning and shaping what will be an outstanding 2021 season. It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the incredible talent within our orchestra, and around this wonderful country. It is exciting to draw special focus to First Nations performers and composers as we explore our local culture and collaborate with some extraordinary artists.”

“With International artists unable to tour, we look forward to showcasing more of our amazing Australian artists.”

“I know every musician has been waiting eagerly for the opportunity to play again for the people of Melbourne and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Administration in shaping the future of our great organisation.”

From Sophie Galaise, MSO Managing Director: “This important Agreement with our musicians is a significant milestone as we keep fighting for our survival. This has been an exceptionally challenging time for the MSO; in continuing to work together we will come through this crisis. Our musicians’ passion and love for the MSO is one of this orchestra’s defining characteristics. It was clear that through the process of negotiation musicians of the MSO were entirely committed to the survival of our orchestra. Whilst it takes a whole organisation to make the MSO work, an orchestra cannot exist without its musicians.”

From Kirstin Kenny, President of the MSO Players Committee: “We are all so excited to get back to the stage and perform for our beloved audience. It has been a very difficult year for everyone around the world. Music is such an important part of the healing within community, and we are inviting you all to celebrate the New Year with us.”