San Francisco Symphony Cancels Carnegie Hall Dates as Strike Continues

Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 09:00 PM

The San Francisco Symphony's east coast tour, which was to include a two-night stand at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, has been canceled as a result of its five-day-old strike.

The orchestra announced shortly before 8 pm ET Sunday that the two sides had been unable to reach an accord, and remain far apart on issues of pay and benefits.

Along with its Wednesday and Thursday concerts at Carnegie, the orchestra was set to travel to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Friday and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC on Saturday, all with Michael Tilson Thomas at the helm.

The Wednesday concert was to be broadcast nationally by WQXR. In its place, the station will present a 2012 Carnegie Hall Live performance by the Berlin Philharmonic.

The negotiations broke off Sunday after a federal mediator who was overseeing the process proposed a 60-day "cooling off period" that would have allowed the tour to go forward while the talks continued.

The sticking points are largely over pay. Management demanded wage freezes for the first year of a contract, as well as health and pension plan changes. Musicians that say that the orchestra enjoys a healthy endowment of $239 million and its executive director, Brent Assink, has seen substantial pay increases and bonuses. Management contends that San Francisco is among the top three highest paid orchestras in the country.

"We feel we have done everything we could to work with the Administration to reach a deal that would have allowed the tour to proceed," said a musicians' statement. It added that "we deeply regret that this dispute has resulted in cancelled concerts for both our local audiences and on the East Coast."

Assink issued a statement that read, in part, "We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour. 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."

The musicians walked off the job on Wednesday, shortly before that evening's subscription concert, which was abruptly canceled. The strike became the latest in a series of labor disputes among big-city American orchestras.

The San Francisco Symphony won the Grammy Award for best orchestral performance of 2012 on February 10. Less than two weeks later, the orchestra’s oboist died after collapsing on stage during a concert.

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