In Atlanta, the tutus are back out and the dancers once again are rehearsing for "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Nutcracker," thanks to a new pension package that was offered to the city's musicians union.
The Atlanta Federation of Musicians, Local 148-462, went on strike almost a year ago in a dispute with The Atlanta Ballet over the lack of a pension package. The Ballet Company refused to pay into the union's New York-based national pension plan, which has $1.6 billion in total assets.
"The Atlanta Ballet was the only major employer not willing to pay in," said Andrew Cox, secretary treasurer of the union local.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and other employers of the musicians in town each have paid into the union pension plan since its was made available in the 1950s.
Last month, the Atlanta Ballet agreed to contribute 3% of wages to musicians working with the ballet starting Sept. 1, 2001, and 4% of scale wages the following year.
Granted it's a small amount, but it's an important benefit, said Mr. Cox.
In fact, he expects the company's dancers may push to receive similar benefits. The dancers have a 403(b) plan, but not a traditional defined benefit plan. And because the dancers' contract with the company runs out next year, Mr. Cox expects the dancers will hold out for the same benefits as the musicians.
John McFrall, artistic director and chief executive officer of the ballet company, said the issue was more that the musicians were part-time employees, while the dancers are full-time employees for the ballet.
"We always have been in the position to identify how to afford to make the contributions," Mr. McFrall said. There was also the issue of time, since the musicians had been on strike for almost a year.
In negotiating with the dancers, Mr. McFrall isn't sure whether they will demand a traditional defined benefit plan. They may just ask for an increase in contributions to the existing 403(b) plan.