Or­ches­tra mu­si­cians on strike in Philadel­phia, Pitts­burgh

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - The As­so­ci­ated Press

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Mu­si­cians have been walk­ing picket lines on both ends of Penn­syl­va­nia with strikes at or­ches­tras in Pitts­burgh and now Philadel­phia, prompt­ing can­cel­la­tion of week­end con­certs sched­uled in both cities.

The Philadel­phia Or­ches­tra went on strike Fri­day night, can­cel­ing an open­ing night per­for­mance that about 1,000 peo­ple had come to hear. No new talks had been sched­uled Satur­day. The walk­out came only hours af­ter an­other one by mu­si­cians of the Pitts­burgh Sym­phony Or­ches­tra.

The Philadel­phia Or­ches­tra mu­si­cians, rep­re­sented by the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Mu­si­cians Lo­cal 77, posted a state­ment on Face­book say­ing the walk­out was aimed at re­vers­ing what they called “the shame­ful de­cline of our trea­sured in­sti­tu­tion.”

The mu­si­cians said they had agreed in years past to “mul­ti­ple cuts to our wages, pen­sion, and work­ing con­di­tions” and last year agreed to a one-year con­tract pend­ing an eval­u­a­tion by a con­sul­tant, whose rec­om­men­da­tions were made in April but which haven’t been adopted. Now, they said, their base salary was more than 18 per­cent less than that of­fered by the Boston Sym­phony and more than 24 per­cent less than that of San Fran­cisco Sym­phony.

“In or­der for us to re­main a great or­ches­tra, we must be able to at­tract and re­tain the best play­ers,” the mu­si­cians said. “If a tal­ented mu­si­cian has to de­cide be­tween au­di­tion­ing for Philadel­phia or Boston or San Fran­cisco, which or­ches­tra will they choose?”

The Philadel­phia Or­ches­tra called the walk­out “dis­ap­point­ing” but said of­fi­cials said they hope to swiftly come to agree­ment with the mu­si­cians. Or­ches­tra of­fi­cials said the mu­si­cians re­jected an of­fer of 2 per­cent base pay in­creases each year for the next three years, bring­ing their an­nual base pay to more than $135,000 by the third year, and es­tab­lish­ment of an “ap­pre­ci­a­tion fund” and ad­di­tion of one more po­si­tion to the or­ches­tra. The base min­i­mum for Boston Sym­phony Or­ches­tra play­ers will be $152,672 at the end of this sea­son, The Philadel­phia Inquirer re­ported.

Or­ches­tra of­fi­cials char­ac­ter­ized the walk­out as com­ing at “the crest” of a turn­around since the or­ches­tra filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion more than five years ago, cit­ing a 28-per­cent in­crease in earned rev­enue and a 44-per­cent in­crease in con­trib­uted in­come. In a state­ment, they also cited the hir­ing of Yan­nick Nézet-Séguin, be­gin­ning his fifth sea­son as mu­sic direc­tor, and ef­forts to in­crease com­mu­nity ser­vice and broaden au­di­ences through new tech­nol­ogy.

Af­ter the can­cel­la­tion of Fri­day night’s gala con­cert, one of the sea­son’s big­gest fundrais­ers, the or­ches­tra as­so­ci­a­tion’s gala din­ner for about 550 went on as planned in the lobby of the Kim­mel Cen­ter as mu­si­cians pick­eted out­side in a light rain, the Inquirer re­ported.

Pitts­burgh Sym­phony Or­ches­tra mu­si­cians went on strike Fri­day af­ter unan­i­mously re­ject­ing calls for a 15 per­cent pay cut. Sym­phony man­agers said the or­ches­tra is run­ning a $1.5 mil­lion an­nual deficit and faces more than $20 mil­lion in cu­mu­la­tive debt over the next five years, and the pen­sion fund needs at least $10 mil­lion over the next five years to re­main sol­vent. They pro­posed freez­ing pen­sions for mu­si­cians with less than 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence and mov­ing them into a 401(k) plan.

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