San Antonio Symphony Musicians May Strike

Classic Arts News   San Antonio Symphony Musicians May Strike
The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony may strike if a new contract is not agreed before the current one expires on August 31.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that musicians and management have agreed to meet with a federal mediator to resolve their differences. "In aggregate labor costs for the three-year period through 2009-10, we're about $1.2 million apart," the musicians' attorney, David Van Os, told the paper regarding the gap between the latest proposals from both sides.

Base salary this season is $1,000 a week for 26 weeks; musicians want the minimum salary to be $1,000 a week for 28 weeks in the first year of the next contract and rise to $1,060 a week for 30 weeks in the third year. Management has reportedly agreed to slightly higher weekly pay, but for only 26 weeks each year.

A likely additional source of tension is the decision last fall by SASO management, over the objections of the musicians, not to renew the contract of music director Larry Rachleff because he does not make his home in San Antonio. (Rachleff lives in Houston, where he is a tenured professor at Rice University.)

CEO David Green had previously proposed reducing the full-time roster of 72 musicians to 63 and contracting an additional 14 to play only in classical concerts (as opposed to pops and other performances), for a minimum of 77 musicians total. He told the Express-News that in the three years since the SASO emerged from bankruptcy in 2004, it has had to engage an average of 14 substitutes for each classical concert to replace roster players who were on leave.

The money saved would have been used to raise salaries of the core players. The "63/14" idea flopped with the musicians, however, who distributed flyers before a concert on June 1 slamming the proposal.

Green is reportedly reluctant to offer more because "some of our grants are contingent on our finishing in the black" each season and because "we've got donors warning us not to go back to fixed costs that we can't meet."

Symphony bassoonist Brian Petkovich, chairman of the musicians' bargaining team, told the paper the donors' caution was "irrational fear," adding that "management has been unable to convince donors it's safe to give money, but it's not the risky venture it probably was" in the past."

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