One of the saddest, most depressing parts of our recent contract negotiations had to be reading the many musician comments about injuries and physical problems experienced due to overwork. As a way of saving money, the orchestra was reduced in size by attrition during the last two contracts. String sections (except the bass section – we’re all clinging to our jobs for dear life) lost the most work relief when retiring players were not replaced. The alarming connection between increased workload and the amount of injuries reported helped bring the work relief issue to the forefront.
The last post poked fun at the Byzantine ways time off is defined and parceled out to musicians. Some of the arcane provisions in the contract are products of evolution, as it is easier in the course of negotiations to tack on new clauses, sections, and subsections to existing language rather than cleaning the slate and agreeing to simple, concise terms. Of course, both sides of the negotiating table have their own reasons for keeping the contract language opaque. The chimerical ‘release week’ seems to be one of those evolutionary oddities, hidden in plain sight for various reasons. But hopefully now that the issue is emerging from the shadows everyone can admit time off is no laughing matter.