Cleveland Orchestra Musicians Strike Over Contract

January 18, 2010 - 7:08 AM
The orchestra's board of trustees said Sunday it recognized the musicians' "incredible artistry" but was committed to "ongoing prudent cost control."
Cleveland (AP) - The musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra have put down their instruments and gone on strike because of a pay impasse with management, jeopardizing upcoming performances.
 
They said they "may be considered to be amongst the best in the world musically, but we are a far cry from being compensated that way or treated that way."
 
Oboist Jeffrey Rathbun, chair of the musicians' negotiating committee, said Sunday that he and the other musicians were disappointed management hadn't acknowledged sacrifices they've made in their last two contracts or their offer to continue to work for the next contract year with no increase in salary or benefits.
 
"They want more cuts," he said in an e-mailed statement. "They have taken reductions and say we need to feel the pain yet again."
 
In March, the orchestra said it would reduce pay, leave six positions unfilled and scale back artistic initiatives to save money.
 
The orchestra's board of trustees said Sunday it recognized the musicians' "incredible artistry" but was committed to "ongoing prudent cost control."
 
"It is only with long-term financial stability that the orchestra can preserve artistic excellence," board President Dennis LaBarre said in a statement.
 
Rathbun, the oboist, said the musicians, whose contract expired at the end of August, had to stay competitive in pay to stay competitive in quality and "our reputation is at stake."
 
He said the strike, beginning at midnight Sunday, means the musicians likely won't make their planned trips to Indiana, where they had lined up a residency at Indiana University, and to Florida, where they make their winter home.
 
The musicians apologized to the students, faculty and alumni of Indiana University and to their friends and supporters at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
 
The orchestra has concerts scheduled under the direction of Music Director Franz Welser-Moest at Indiana University on Wednesday and in Miami on Friday, Saturday and Jan. 28-30. Executive Director Gary Hanson said the orchestra would reschedule any canceled concerts.
 
The orchestra and the musicians' union, the Cleveland Federation of Musicians, Local 4 of the American Federation of Musicians, asked for federal mediation in the dispute beginning Monday.
 
A free community open house at the orchestra's home, Severance Hall, was to go on as scheduled Monday, the orchestra said, although musicians said they would picket outside. The program was to feature community ensembles, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus.