The musicians have been playing without a contract since August 2003; they voted to authorize a strike in September 2004. Months of talks, including a round of intensive negotiations that began last month, have brought little progress toward a deal.
In statements released yesterday, both sides said that a disagreement over work rules was the central issue in the dispute. Management insist that more flexible scheduling is necessary in order to allow the MSO to resume touring and recording and thus to maintain the international profile it built over 25 years under former music director Charles Dutoit. Musicians say that under the management proposal they would have to work more consecutive days than Canadian labor laws allow.
The union also said that the latest financial offer from management "is nothing less than an insult to...musicians." According to the union, management has proposed extending the pay freeze that has been in place since fall 2002 for another two years, with a salary increase of 0.9 percent over the following two years. The result, musicians say, is that in 2009 they would be making less than the musicians of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra, a lower-profile ensemble, made in 2002.
After tonight's concert, the MSO has 11 concerts remaining in the 2005-06 season, as well as a slate of summer events. All have been canceled until further notice, MSO management said. Representatives of the orchestra will contact ticket holders to "present them with various options."