Monday, March 18, 2013

SF Symphony Cancels East Coast Tour Due to Musicians' Strike

By Whitney Phaneuf
Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Don't crack the old Carnegie Hall joke to anyone at the San Francisco Symphony this week ("Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice!") — the ongoing musicians' strike has resulted in the cancellation of the orchestra’s three-city East Coast tour, which was supposed to happen from March 20-23 and would have included two nights at, yes, New York City's Carnegie Hall.

In a lengthy (and combative) press release issued today by Symphony management, it said the musicians’ union has continued to reject revised employment contracts that propose higher salaries, among other benefits. The Symphony stated that a federal mediator asked the musicians "to resume playing concerts during a 'cooling off' period while negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continue," implying the musicians are being uncooperative for refusing to perform — gasp — during a strike.

The cancelled East Coast tour included performances at Carnegie Hall March 20 and 21, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on March 22, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on March 23.

Update, 3:44: The Symphony's musicians have released a statement, copy-pasted below:

The Musicians have been negotiating in good faith with Symphony Management to try to reach a deal before the Carnegie Hall tour begins. At 4:30 Sunday morning the talks broke down.

Even though the Musicians believe that the Symphony is in excellent financial condition, they have attempted to address Management’s concerns more than half way. Unfortunately, opportunistically attempting to seize on the misfortunes of other Orchestras, SFS Management continues to insist that the Musicians accept draconian cuts in compensation and benefits and concede work rule changes that would set back by decades the protections in the Musicians’ contract designed to ensure artistic excellence. They have attempted to justify this policy with talk of “operational deficits” which were largely the self- created results of outsized programming and spending an additional 11 million dollars last year on a Centennial Celebration, providing enormous bonuses and compensation to top executives and consultants and directing resources away from the core mission of the Orchestra. Even with all the additional spending the SFS has experienced significant growth in the endowment, reported a 32 million dollar surplus to the IRS, and is projecting substantial growth in revenue this year.

The Musicians’ concern over vacancies in key positions, defections of their most talented musicians to better paid orchestras and Managements’ demands for erosion of essential contract protections has them willing to stay out on strike until Management makes a fair contract offer — one fitting for an organization in solid financial condition and that will help to maintain the artistic quality of the orchestra that has taken so long to build.

In the meantime, we continue to believe that Management, especially given the public money it receives, needs to make public the Symphony’s finances.

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