Detroit classical musicians fight cuts

This video from the USA is called ASIMO conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to raise awareness for music education.

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

Detroit Symphony musicians appeal for support as contract deadline approaches

By Shannon Jones

28 August 2010

Members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) performed a free public concert Thursday at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit to reach out for community support as they resist massive and unprecedented concession demands by management.

Talks between DSO musicians and management broke off Friday without an agreement. No further talks are scheduled. In a statement to the press the players spokesman, cellist Haden McKay, said, “I don’t feel any closer to a settlement. I think we’ve gone about as far as we can go.” Orchestra members will meet Saturday to discuss the next step.

The 84 current players are being asked to accept a three-year agreement containing a 28 percent pay cut, a reduction in health care benefits, a permanent reduction in the size of the orchestra and other takeaways. The musicians gave up significant concessions in the previous agreement and many positions remain unfilled.

If no settlement is reached by the August 29 contract deadline, DSO management is threatening to implement a so-called Proposal B containing even more drastic concessions.

Management cites pressure from lenders, a decline in ticket sales, reduced private and corporate donations, and an eroding endowment to make the case that orchestra members must take cuts. Since the onset of the recession in 2008, the unrestricted portion of the DSO endowment has fallen almost 60 percent, from $56.8 million to $22.9 million. During the same period donations fell from $14.5 million to $10.5 million. Meanwhile, public funding has been virtually eliminated in the wake of enormous state budget deficits.

The crisis puts the survival of the DSO as a leading US orchestra at stake. Currently the DSO ranks tenth in pay among major US orchestras. The proposed cuts will drop it to eighteenth or lower.

The American Federation of Musicians, the players union, is countering management demands with a proposal for somewhat less drastic pay cuts, with a significant portion of salary restored in the third year.

If no settlement is reached by the deadline, a strike is possible. The last strike by DSO members was in 1987, a twelve-week walkout, one of the longest for a US orchestra.

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