Possible Strike For Detroit Symphony Orchestra

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Musicians in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra said Saturday they intend to strike after last-minute talks failed to produce an agreement amid a budget battle.

Spokesman cellist Haden McKay said musicians and their families would start picketing at Orchestra Hall at 10 a.m. Oct. 4.

McKay also said that the musicians and their union have filed charges of unfair labor practices by management with the National Labor Relations Board.

"After continually refusing to negotiate, they claimed an impasse existed, enabling them to impose their last offer to the musicians," McKay said in a statement. "That offer not only slashed salary and benefits 33 percent, it imposed many onerous changes in work rules that have nothing to do with cutting expenses but would seriously damage the quality of the orchestra."

Management and musicians met for four hours Friday with federal and state mediators without reaching a deal.

DSO President Anne Parsons told the Detroit Free Press on Friday that management was implementing an offer that includes base pay cuts for orchestra veterans of about 30 percent, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year.

Musicians had offered a 22 percent reduction in the first year to $82,000.

The Associated Press left phone messages seeking comment from symphony management.

In a statement posted on the symphony's website, management said that financial problems left it with no alternative.

"We hope the union will finally believe that what we've said from the start of these negotiations is true: that we are in an untenable position and cannot go beyond the financial offer that's been on the table," the statement said. "Any increase beyond our last offer will put the DSO in a deeper hole that would ultimately drive the organization out of business. There is nobody who wins in that situation."

Symphony officials contend the economy is bad in the Detroit area and the organization cannot spend more money than it takes in. But musicians say the proposed cuts for new members would keep the orchestra from attracting top talent.

cKay said the musicians still hope an agreement might be reached before the strike starts.

"We still hope that management will be willing to meet with us, work with us to arrive at a fair agreement, and thus avoid the strike," McKay said.

The season starts in October.

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