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San Francisco Symphony cancels tour as pay negotiations continue


The San Francisco Symphony has canceled its East Coast tour, which included performances at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center in New York. The decision came after pay negotiations between the Symphony’s administration and musicians failed to reach a resolution. The musicians have been striking since Wednesday.

Representatives of the musicians’ union and management of the San Francisco Symphony can not agree on salaries and benefits. On Sunday night, the musicians rejected a cooling-off period, which would have allowed the East Coast tour to take place while talks continued. Management says the latest offer included a lift in musician pay to a new minimum salary of nearly $146,000 with annual increases of one percent and two percent for the next two years. They say the latest offer raises the current average pay to $165,000.

It may seem like a lot of money, but records show it’s far less than some of the organization’s directors make. According to the Symphony’s 2011 tax forms, executive director Brent Assink earned $456,179 as well as an extra $55,744 from the Symphony and related organizations that year, while the Symphony paid $2,412,662 to MTT, Inc. for the services of music director Michael Tilson Thomas. The tax forms also show the Symphony carried more than 260 million dollars in net assets or fund balances that year.

Communications Director Oliver Thiel says most of that money is tied up in endowment, for investment, outreach and education programs.

“The growth of those constant expenses has outpaced the growth of concert revenues by a significant margin, and the long-range planning of the orchestra is dependent on aligning these more closely,” says Thiel.

Four concerts have been canceled at San Francisco’s Davies Hall so far. The negotiations between management and musicians are ongoing.

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