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article imageSeattle Symphony Orchestra may go on strike

By Andrew Moran     Jan 11, 2010 in Business
As of Jan. 1, 2010, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has not been performing without a contract, which may force the SSO to go on strike if the latest contract negotiations fail.
The Seattle arts industry is presently in trouble as the possibilities of a Seattle Symphony Orchestra strike, management lockout of the musicians, cancellation of the 2010/2011 season and a bankruptcy filing could occur. The symphony currently has debt worth up to $4 million.
The orchestra’s five-year contract expired in the summer and an extension had a deadline of Dec. 31, 2009. As of January 1, 2010, the SSO players are performing without a contract and the management has stayed quite quiet on the negotiations.
Crosscut reports that the management has offered a contract and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra Players Organization will vote on it next week but some are expecting to be defeated. The offer is a five-year contract with a ten per cent wage cut but the union wants a 20-month contract with only a 1.3 per cent salary cut for the first eight months of the year and then a 3.4 per cent raise 12 months after.
However, union leaders say the initial offer is insufficient because of the high cost of living in Seattle and other symphony players make significantly more of an annual salary.
Symphony management argues that they need a five-year agreement to balance the budget and attract high level talent. They also add that there is a measure for profit sharing and a contract reopener because they can’t expect contributors to give money to such an organization that cannot sustain the budget.
“We cannot spend money we don’t have.”
Tim Hale, Chairman of the union, told KUOW News, “The issue is not necessarily a pay cut for the remainder of this season. It's the fact that those pay cuts continues for an additional four seasons, and that we don't get back to the wage we were supposed to earn in 2005 until 2014.”
Another issue in the discussion is the number of unfilled positions. The current number of unfilled seats is eight and management wants to keep them unfilled and use freelance musicians. They also want to continue adding freelancers as more positions remain unfilled. However, the union wants to allow only six unfilled positions.
SSO spokesperson Dan McConnell said that their offer is the best one the union will get, “It is an offer that's based on all the economic factors that are affecting both the Symphony and other organizations today. And it really is, according to our negotiating team, the best offer they can make in all aspects."
More about Seattle symphony orchestra, Strike, Seattle arts
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