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Union Strike Causes Additional Concert Cancellations

Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012

For Immediate Release

Contact: Annie Matlow 464-7071



Spokane – The musician’s decision to halt negotiations and strike on November 3 has forced the Spokane Symphony to cancel its next four concerts.

 

“We are very disappointed that our patrons and ticket holders will be deprived of these wonderful concerts. The strike follows several months of negotiations in which the Society bargained respectfully and in good faith, returning to the table on Nov. 1. There have been multiple offers and many concessions by the Society with lack of any agreement,” said Spokane Symphony Board President Peter Moye.

 

“As a local, independent non-profit arts organization, our priority has been to pursue long-term sustainability and protect musician jobs. While we worked very hard to reach an agreement, the union chose to strike rather than continue bargaining. The musicians are being represented by an international union negotiator, who represents a national agenda rather than seeking consensus. We are dismayed that we have been forced into the position of cancelling this much anticipated line-up of concert experiences,” Moye said.

 

Concerts cancelled include:

  • Symphony with a Splash, Friday, Nov. 9;
  • Video Games Live, Saturday, Nov, 10;
  • Classics – Rachmaninoff and Pictures, Saturday, Nov. 17;
  • Classics – Rachmaninoff and Pictures, Sunday, Nov. 18.

 

If a patron purchased tickets to any of these concerts, the Symphony will put a credit on their account for the value of tickets purchased, and they do not need to contact the Box Office immediately. They can use this credit for a ticket to a future performance once the season has resumed, or can use it toward another purchase.


Other options include:

  1. An immediate exchange into a future concert, with some exclusions. 
  2. A donation made to the Spokane Symphony in the amount of the tickets purchased.
  3. A gift certificate in the amount of the tickets purchased.
  4. A refund for the tickets purchased.

If one would like to exchange, donate, receive a gift certificate or a refund, please contact the Box Office, call 509-624-1200. Subscribers can also contact the Box Office by emailing subscriber@spokanesymphony.org and single ticket buyers can email tickets@spokanesymphony.orgBox Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm and Saturday, Nov. 10, 2 to 8 p.m.


 

Background


Ensuring Long Term Viability

Today's landscape for non-profits, including the Spokane Symphony, has changed significantly over the past five years. National and local trends - both economic and organizational - have presented tremendous challenges. What that means to the Spokane Symphony Society is a harsh new business reality. New, creative approaches are required in both cost management and revenue generation. Over the past three years, the Spokane Symphony has diligently sought sustainable solutions to ensure the long-term viability of the organization.  The latest challenge to the organization involves our effort to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the musicians to renew their contract for the next two years.


The contract between the Spokane Symphony Society and the Musicians Local #105 of the American Federation of Musicians expired on Aug. 30, 2012. Negotiations had been ongoing since March 2012. The musicians continued to play after the contract expired. On Oct. 10, the two groups met with a Federal Mediator for a second time. While progress was made, an agreement was not reached and the union rejected the Board’s final offer. The two groups returned to the table on Thursday, Nov. 1 but the musicians halted talks and called for a strike on Nov. 2. 


The Musicians had been working under a contract negotiated in 2006. Musician compensation was based on a guaranteed number of "services" (rehearsals, concerts or educational events) at three different tiers of musicians in the orchestra. The "core musicians" had the greatest number of guaranteed services under the 2006 contract. With the economic downturn, some programs had to be cancelled and others anticipated at the time of the contract were no longer possible. Even though it became impossible for the organization to use those guaranteed services, the core musicians were paid for work they never performed. The value of the unused services has ranged from $120,000 to $180,000 annually during each of the last three years.


Musicians work a 38-week season, with a maximum of eight, two-and-one-half-hour services per week at an average pay of $43.29 per hour. The terms set by the Board continue at the same rate and reduce the amount of guaranteed services to a level that can be used under the current structure.


Organization Cut Operating Expenses, Made Sacrifices 

Since 2009, over $500,000 or nearly 13% has been cut from the Symphony's annual operating budget. This has included cutting expenses by reducing administrative staff (eliminating 8 FTEs, full-time equivalent positions), revising programs and eliminating expenses not critical to its core mission. Additionally, during this time administrative staff members have taken pay cuts, voluntarily taken furloughs and donated back vacation time so that musician pay could be kept at the freeze level agreed to in 2009. We value our talented musicians and have tried hard to do everything possible to maintain their pay level. 


Unused Services Key Issue 

Yet, despite these efforts, there has been a decline in income, including ticket sales. Due to these economic pressures, the Board cannot support the service guarantee, an expense that pays for musician services that were planned at the time of the 2006 contract but never performed.  What this is about is the organization paying for services that go unused. The board’s priority is to be good stewards of its resources.


 

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