Pittsburgh Symphony cancels performances through Oct. 27 in wake of musicians' strike
October 3, 2016 11:19 PM
PSO musicians carry signs while picketing outside Heinz Hall on Friday morning.
By Elizabeth Bloom / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The management and musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra were quite far apart on the matters of players’ salaries and retirement plans when management made its final offer to the musicians, who rejected the proposal and decided to go on strike on Friday.
The PSO announced Monday that it has canceled concerts scheduled between now through Oct. 27 in response to the strike.
Management’s last offer, initially made on Sept. 18 before the process went into federal mediation, would have cut musicians’ pay by 15 percent; transitioned the musicians’ retirement plans from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan with an 8 percent contribution; and left three vacancies in the orchestra open, with the possibility that future vacancies would not be filled.
Musicians proposed a salary freeze in the first year and increases of 2 percent, 3 percent and 4 percent in the final three years of a four-year contract, bassist and musicians’ committee chairman Micah Howard said. The musicians also offered to freeze their pension plan in 2019 and transition to a defined contribution plan, as well as freeze hiring.
In the proposal, the percentage contributions at that time would be based on players’ age in order to ease the transition for those who had been in the pension plan for a long time, Mr. Howard said. He noted that this offer was not their last, best and final proposal and that the musicians had hoped to keep negotiating.
“We had a lot of wiggle room on all of this,” he said. “Every step of the way they have shocked us.”
COO Christian Schornich, who has negotiated on behalf of management, said that the musicians were not acknowledging the financial realities facing the organization and said their seniority-based defined contribution plan would have increased the organization’s obligations. While he described musicians’ willingness to discuss moving to a defined contribution plan as “a big step forward,” he said the musicians’ particular plan would have set the organization’s finances back.
“Their proposal...might be actually more expensive than the defined benefit plan,” he said.
The management’s negotiating team was “mandated” by the PSO board not to budge any further on the matter of musicians’ salaries, he said. Management”s initial proposal had included a 25 percent pay cut for musicians before it arrived at the latest 15 percent figure.
“We have shouldered millions and millions of dollars by going from 25 to 15,” Mr. Schornich said.
The PSO released a list of canceled concerts:
• Oct. 7 and 9: BNY Mellon Grand Classics, Pinchas Zukerman
• Oct. 14-16: BNY Mellon Grand Classics: Dvorak’s New World
• Oct. 27: Canady Symphony Series at WVU, the music of John Williams.
“We deeply regret the cancellations of these additional concerts,” Melia Tourangeau, PSO president and CEO, said in a statement. “We understand the disappointment this causes patrons and we appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time.”
Ticketholders will be notified as soon as possible with options for handling unused tickets.
Elizabeth Bloom: email@example.com, 412-263-1750 and Twitter: @BloomPG.
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