After 20 years of labor peace, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is in a showdown that threatens to derail the opening of the 2007-08 season.
Contract negotiations between the musicians union and management have broken down over a combination of issues, including salaries, pensions, seniority pay and work rules, according to the union. [….]
The current minimum salary for DSO musicians is $98,800, but most make more.
The musicians also are concerned that the proposed contract would hurt how the DSO, currently ranked at No. 10 by the American Federation of Musicians, stacks up against other orchestras nationally in salary parity.
The possibility of a strike by musicians threatens to impede the momentum the orchestra has built since 2004, when the musicians agreed to concessions to help the orchestra deal with a $2.2 million deficit. The musicians’ salaries jumped considerably in 2005 to make up for the concessions. The orchestra has balanced its budget the past three seasons.
It has been searching for a music director for 5 years, and prolonged labor turmoil could make it more difficult to lure a top conductor.
Read the complete article here, and check out Janelle Gelfand ‘s follow-up post here. The orchestra management is proposing a reduction in the length of the season without the chance to recover lost pay. While paying out a salary just a hair under six figures in the depressed economy of metro Detroit may seem high to some, the numbers make sense when considering the population of Detroit and the heritage of this orchestra. Detroit is the 11th largest city in the United States, and the Detroit Symphony pays the 10th highest salary in the business (via Wikipedia).
Is the Detroit Symphony management progressive and responsive to new revenue possibilities and imaginative ways to promote and use the orchestra? Are they reading Adaptistration (the excellent orchestra management blog by Drew McManus) and taking cues from other orchestras facing similar challenges? Are the Detroit Symphony musicians simply overpaid given the economic conditions of their region? A cursory glance at the numbers (population versus compensation) suggests not, but as most people know, a dizzying array of factors contribute to the financial health and cultural relevance of an orchestra. Orchestras succeed in depressed economies and fail in prosperous economies all the time.
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