PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike Friday after unanimously rejecting calls for a 15 percent pay cut, pension changes and staffing cuts they say management has proposed.
“The consequences of those cuts would be severe and immediate,” the union said in a statement announcing the strike. It predicted musicians would leave, and the symphony would be unable to attract top-notch players.
The musicians have agreed to concessions in the past, most recently a nearly 10 percent pay cut in 2011, to help the orchestra deal with funding issues. The proposed immediate 15 percent pay cut would reduce each musician’s base pay from $107,239 to $91,153, the union said, with annual raises of 2 percent and 3 percent in each of the next two years.
Symphony management didn’t immediately respond to request for comment on the strike.
Pittsburgh joins Fort Worth musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra who went on strike Sept. 8. Concerts are now cancelled through Nov. 3.
Pittsburgh Symphony President Malia Tourangeau last month said the orchestra is at a “critical crossroad,” losing $1.2 million for its Broadway series because its contract with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is expiring along with a donor’s contributions. The orchestra is projecting a deficit of nearly $1.6 million this season.
The financial forecast emerged when the symphony applied for $1.55 million in grants from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. The quasi-governmental agency was set up to distribute a share of Allegheny County’s 1 percent sales tax to “regional assets” like sports stadiums, libraries, and arts groups — including the symphony.
About $150,000 of the grants would be earmarked for fiber optic cables for high-definition video and interactive flat-screen signs; the other $1.4 million was to cover expenses. The projected $1.56 million deficit for 2016-2017 was based on the symphony receiving the full regional asset grant amount.
The union, however, contends management’s demands are part of an “ideological” rift and an insistence on a “new business model,” the strike announcement said. The union contends ticket sales are up and that donations to the orchestra’s annual fund broke a record.
“This is no time for (management) to abandon the idea that Pittsburgh deserves a world-class orchestra,” the union said.
The orchestra’s last contract expired Sept. 5, but the union kept working without a contract so their Sept. 17 PSO Gala performance would not be canceled. Other concerts are canceled indefinitely now, however, including the Symphony Pops series, “The Music of John Williams,” this weekend. Williams composed the music to “Jaws,” ”Star Wars” and other blockbuster movies.