Breaking: Pittsburgh Symphony goes on strike
September 30, 2016 by norman lebrecht
Talks have broken down on musicians’ wages. They have walked out.
Press release follows.
Pittsburgh musicians join Fort Worth colleagues on the picket line.
The Philadelphia Orchestra will resume talks with musicians later today (Friday). They could be next.
UPDATE2: PSO: Why we won’t yield to musicians
Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra On Strike
Musicians Reject Unprecedented Cuts to Pay, Benefits, Orchestra Size
In response to Management’s demands for a 15% pay cut, a freeze of the Musicians’ pension, and a reduction in the number of Musicians, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (“PSO”) have been forced to go on strike, effective immediately.
Since February 2016, the Musicians have met regularly with the management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Inc. (“PSI”) in an effort to reach a fair labor agreement. The current contract expired on September 5, but the Musicians agreed to extend the agreement through September 18 so the PSO’s Gala performance could proceed on September 17. Since then, the Musicians have been working without a contract.
The Musicians came to these negotiations prepared to help put the PSI’s new management team in the best position to succeed. But instead, the Musicians were blindsided by PSI Management’s demands for radical cuts to salary, retirement, and the number of Musicians in the Orchestra.
On September 18, PSI Management presented what it deemed a “last, best, and final” contract offer. In that proposal, Management demands the following:
• An immediate wage cut of 15% (from $107,239 to $91,153), with only minor increases (2% and 3%) for each of the following two years.
• A “hard freeze” of the Musicians’ pension plan, in which all participants with less than 30 years of service would no longer accrue pension benefits and would instead be switched to a 401k plan.
• A reduction in the Orchestra complement (presently 99 plus 2 librarians, though 3 positions are currently vacant) to some lower number that would be unilaterally determined by PSI Management, which would have sole discretion to decline to replace Musicians who retire or leave the Orchestra.
The consequences of those cuts would be severe and immediate. Pittsburgh boasts an orchestra internationally recognized as one of the world’s best. If PSI Management’s proposed cuts were realized, many of the PSO’s finest Musicians will leave. The Orchestra will be unable to attract replacements of the same caliber. The reputation and stature of the Pittsburgh Symphony would forever be diminished.
After receiving Management’s so-called final offer on September 18, the Musicians suggested the parties work with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“FMCS”). PSI Management agreed to do so; however, despite a mediation process that lasted more than ten days, and despite continued good-faith efforts by the Musicians to compromise, Management’s demands did not change at all.
On Thursday, September 29, the Orchestra Committee (the Musicians’ bargaining team) presented Management’s so-called final offer to the Musicians for an up-or-down vote. The result was a unanimous rejection of Management’s offer.
The Musicians want nothing more than to reach a fair and equitable agreement. Throughout the bargaining process and in mediation, the Musicians have offered major concessions on salary, pension, and size of the orchestra – all the topics that are the focus of Management’s demands. Management rejected all of those offers.
Management’s refusal to compromise clearly is ideological. New PSI Management has decided, against all evidence, that Pittsburgh somehow cannot support a world-class orchestra, and that a “new business model” is needed. This makes no sense. In 2016, the PSO’s Annual Fund hit a record; ticket sales are up; the Pittsburgh economy is dynamic; the Cultural District is thriving. This is no time for the PSI to abandon the idea that Pittsburgh deserves a world-class orchestra.
The Musicians also have a long history of working collaboratively with PSI Management when the PSO has faced financial challenges. The last strike was in 1975. Frequently since then, the Musicians have agreed to pay cuts, pension changes, and other concessions designed to help the PSO get through difficult times. But the Musicians have never faced demands for concessions this severe, nor have they encountered such a bizarre and stubborn ideological stance. To the extent the PSO faces financial challenges, there must be a better way than to destroy the very institution that PSI Management has been charged with preserving.
At 10:00 a.m. today, September 30, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony will establish a picket line outside Heinz Hall. We invite all supporters of the Musicians, and of the Pittsburgh Symphony, to join us in protesting PSI Management’s misguided attempt to force these destructive cuts on the Musicians.
Further, on October 4th, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will present a free “Day of Music” to Pittsburgh as our gift to the community. This will consist of 11 different performances between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Please see the Musicians’ Facebook page (Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) or our website (musiciansofthepso.org) for more details.
The Musicians call on PSI Management to return to the bargaining table, and to work in good faith to reach a fair contract with the Musicians.
Next Article Previous Article