San Francisco Symphony Cancels Carnegie Hall Tour

East Coast tour on the line

By Lisa Fernandez and Joe Rosato Jr.
|  Monday, Mar 18, 2013  |  Updated 2:26 PM PDT
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Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony strike on March 18, 2013.

Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony strike on March 18, 2013.

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San Francisco Symphony Threatens to Strike

San Francisco Symphony musicians are seeking roughly around a 5% raise to keep them on par with the Los Angeles and Chicago orchestras, the only two earning more than San Francisco.
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Five days into the strike, the San Francisco Symphony canceled a trip to the East Coast, where musicians would have been playing Mahler's Ninth Symphony, Brahms and more to a crowd of adoring fans at Carnegie Hall.

The no-go on the four-concert tour in New York, as well the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is not a huge surprise: The musicians' union said if they couldn't come to an agreement with management over salaries and benefits, they wouldn't go.  The tour was supposed to have started Sunday and continue through March 23.

The strike has already canceled four other concerts in San Francisco.

The base salary of an average musician is about $141,000.

Since Wednesday, the two sides have been meeting all week with a federal negotiator in an effort to resolve the dispute. But on Sunday afternoon, an agreement was not reached.

Executive Director Brent Assink said that the mediator had proposed a "cooling-off period" that would have allowed the tour to go forward while the talks continued. But he said the musicians had rejected that idea.

"We are deeply disappointed that the musicians are continuing to reject proposals for a new agreement," he said in a statement. "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."

Violist David Gaudry, the chairman of the musicians' negotiating committee, was not immediately available for comment on Sunday. In a previous interview, he said "We don't feel we're getting the support we need and have come to expect traditionally in the past.

Symphony officials said on Sunday that their most recent proposal  included a new minimum annual salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1  percent and 2 percent.

The proposal 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 most options. Additional compensation would  include radio payments, over-scale and seniority pay, which raises the  current average pay to more than $165,000, symphony officials said.

The musicians said earlier this week that they were unhappy with a  proposal by management that would include a pay freeze in the first year and  1 percent increases in the next two years.

Musicians say expensive instruments and the costs of living in the  Bay Area hurt their ability to compete with other top orchestras. 

They also say that while their salaries may seem significant, the musicians pointed out that their counterparts in the Los Angeles and Chicago symphonies earn about $7,500 more annually. They have been playing without a contract since Feb. 15.

Patrons with tickets to canceled concerts can exchange them for  another concert, donate their tickets or get a refund, officials said today.

Information is available by calling the symphony's box office at  (415) 864-6000 or visiting online at www.sfsymphony.org.
   

The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Related stories:

San Francisco Symphony Threatens to Strike

San Francisco Symphony Goes on Strike

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