The orchestra, which is under an international musicians’ boycott, is about to present its defence. Here’s what we hear from the ground:
The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and its parent company Petronas will be facing seven dismissed musicians in the Industrial Relations Court, from Jan 20. The hearing is scheduled to run for 4 days.
The Labour Minister, after reviewing the file, referred it to court. Since announcing the terminations in Feb 2012, the MPO has not explained its actions. Its sole defence is that the foreign musicians “were not employees” but only on a “fixed term” contract, even though most had been employed full-time for up to 14 years.
Contracts were renewed automatically every two years up until 2012, under new management, shuffled in by Petronas. Since then, the MPO has flown in dozens of substitute players to fill the gaps.
The timing and outcome of this hearing have a broader significance: the remaining musicians’ contracts are up for renewal in mid February and Petronas is seeking a new music director to replace the compromised Claus Peter Flor. No maestro of any merit would take the job with 30 empty seats in the ensemble and an international boycott to block new hirings.