San Francisco Symphony Cancels Tour as Musicians Continue Strike

Breaking:

The San Francisco Symphony went on strike Wednesday morning. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
The San Francisco Symphony went on strike Wednesday morning. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

The San Francisco Symphony and its striking musicians have failed to agree on a new contract after marathon negotiations, and the symphony announced this afternoon it’s canceling an East Coast tour scheduled for later this week. Here’s the statement from the musicians’ website, followed by the symphony management’s statement:

For the past four days the SFS Musicians’ Negotiating Committee has been negotiating with the Administration in an earnest effort to reach a deal that would allow the orchestra to leave on its scheduled East Coast tour with concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Talks broke down at 4 am this morning. When it was apparent there would be no agreement by the deadline, the Federal Mediator who has been working with the parties for the last several weeks suggested a 60-day cooling off period. The proposed cooling off period required a media blackout but would have allowed the tour to proceed if approved by the orchestra.

Today the Negotiating Committee met with the orchestra and presented the Federal Mediator’s suggested proposal. After a thorough review of the options, the orchestra voted down the cooling off period. The strike is continuing and we anticipate that the Carnegie tour is now cancelled.

We feel we have done everything we could to work with the Administration to reach a deal that would have allowed the tour to proceed. We are committed to achieving a fair contract that reflects the important role the Musicians play in the continuing success of the organization, and we deeply regret that this dispute has resulted in cancelled concerts for both our local audiences and on the East Coast.

We look forward to performing for our Bay Area audiences soon. Keep checking for further details on upcoming concerts presented by the Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony.

And the statement from symphony management:

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY THREE-CITY EAST COAST TOUR SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 20-23 IS CANCELLED DUE TO MUSICIANS’ STRIKE

Musicians Reject Federal Mediator’s Recommendation for Cooling Off Period

SAN FRANCISCO, March 17, 2013 – The Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony have rejected a federal mediator’s proposal to resume playing concerts during a “cooling off” period while negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continue. The Symphony’s administration was willing to abide by the federal mediator’s recommendation, based on developments over the past three days of talks.

As a result of the musicians’ continuing work stoppage, the orchestra’s three-city East Coast tour on March 20-23 will not go forward. The tour was set to include 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. The ongoing five-day musicians’ strike has already forced cancellations of four concerts in San Francisco.

Over the past three days of lengthy negotiations, overseen by a federal mediator, the musicians’ union rejected the latest administration proposals and continued their strike.

Several proposals by the administration have been rejected by the musicians’ union. The most recent proposal offered increases in musician compensation to achieve a new annual minimum salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1% and 2% for the latest two-year proposal. Contractual benefits also included a $74,000 maximum annual pension, 10 weeks paid vacation, and full coverage health care plan options with no monthly premium contributions for musicians and their families for three of the four options. Additional compensation for most active musicians also includes radio payments, over-scale, and seniority pay which raises the current average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000.

“We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony. “We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information, and have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time. We will continue to work hard to resolve this situation.”

In the current economic environment, the San Francisco Symphony is facing the same challenges that many other orchestras and arts organizations around the country are facing. For all four years of its most recent collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, operating expenses have outpaced operating income. The Orchestra has incurred an operating deficit in each of those years.

As a non-profit organization, the Symphony’s financial statements are audited annually by an independent certified public accounting firm. These statements and related tax filings are publicly available in accordance with the law. Since negotiations began, the administration has been cooperative in sharing financial records and responded to the union’s requests for information in a timely manner. Since September, that includes over 50 formal requests for which over 500 pages of documentation were provided.

The administration has also offered to cooperate with third party financial consultants designated by the musicians to review the audited financial statements. In addition, the administration had offered the musicians the opportunity to have two members join the organization’s Audit Committee of the Board of Governors.

The administration remains willing to continue negotiations with the musicians’ union under the auspices of a federal mediator in an effort to achieve a mutually agreeable contract. The administration will continue to work with the musicians to respond to requests for information, including requests about the Symphony’s finances.

Today’s rejection of the administration’s latest proposal also represents the latest in a series of delays by the musicians’ union in working with the administration on an agreement. While the administration provided its first proposal October 15, 2012 and offered six subsequent proposals, the musicians’ union did not formally respond to any administration proposal until mid-January 2013. The union did not formally respond to any of this information until just over 60 days ago, weeks after the November 24, 2013 expiration of the four-year contract.

Patrons with tickets to the performances in New York, New Jersey and Washington DC should contact their local box office for information on refunds.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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