Music News

Seattle Symphony, Opera Musicians Give Strike Authorization

The musicians union will meet again today to discuss a projected 15 percent cut in compensation.

By Laura Dannen October 16, 2012

Ludovic Morlot makes his official debut as music director of the Seattle Symphony, opening night 2011.

 The Seattle Times reports that the musicians of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players' Organization (SSOPO) have approved a "strike authorization"—a possible but not imminent strike—following months of contract negotiations that started this summer. The musicians union voted yesterday after the symphony and opera managements' latest offer, on October 10, called for a 15 percent decrease in compensation for the current season.

"Strike authorization" was a frequently used phrase this summer, by everyone from Chicago public school teachers to American Airlines pilots; the SSOPO hopes to "reverse concessionary trends" it has made since 2005, according to a union release. "The SSOPO musicians have given back more than $9.6 million to the Symphony, not including savings earned through significant increases in the musicians' share of healthcare costs."

With new leadership at the symphony (music director Ludovic Morlot and executive director Simon Woods have both joined within the last year) and a projected balanced budget, "we are entering a new era at the Seattle Symphony," cellist David Sabee said in the release. "And [we] need to develop a compensation package reflective of this new period in order to uphold the artistic integrity of the Symphony and attract and retain the highest quality musicians."

The Seattle Opera, on the other hand, faces a $1 million shortfall following its 2011-2012 season.

SSOPO members will meet again today. More to come.

UPDATED 10/16/12. The Seattle Symphony board issued this press release today: The Seattle Symphony is currently involved in labor negotiations with its musicians’ union, the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players Organization (SSOPO). The SSOPO issued a public statement indicating that they have received authorization from their members for a strike in the event that we are unable to reach agreement in the current negotiations. Strike authorization is a regular process for labor unions. Taking a vote does not mean that a strike will take place. It is a procedural step that unions take in order to be prepared for any course of action. The Seattle Symphony is actively working to reach a new contract.

Seattle Symphony Board Chair Leslie Jackson Chihuly stated, “Over recent years our musicians have not only inspired the community with consistently great performances, but have also given back much to this organization in salary and other concessions. However, like so many organizations both here in Seattle and nationwide, we continue to face significant and real economic challenges. We must further reduce expenses to achieve economic sustainability. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the health of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and we believe that the future is bright. It is with great regret that we must ask our musicians again for concessions. We continue to work diligently with them to reach an agreement for a new contract.”

At this time, all Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera performances and events are proceeding as scheduled.

UPDATED 10/18/12. More news from SSOPO pr: Contract negotiations between the two parties have continued throughout the day Wednesday, and tonight, members of the SSOPO are handing out leaflets prior to the performance of Fidelio at the Seattle Opera.

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