Striking Pittsburgh Symphony cancels shows through Nov. 18

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled all concerts through Nov. 18 because of a strike by musicians while their union and management blame each other for a string of cancellations.

The orchestra previously had canceled concerts through Oct. 27 after musicians went on strike Sept. 30. In dueling press releases, the orchestra and management couldn’t agree why the concerts were canceled.

“Regrettably, the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have not contacted us through official channels to return to the negotiating table,” Chief Operating Officer Christian Schornich said in management’s release.

But bassist Micah Howard, chairman of the musicians’ orchestra committee, said the decision to cancel the latest concerts was “made by management, and management alone.”

Howard said the union is “ready to negotiate” but management won’t meet “unless we accept the ‘last, best and final’ contract demands they made a month ago.”

The musicians are objecting to a 15 percent pay cut and other concessions management says are necessary to keep the symphony solvent in the face of more than $20 million in debt over the next five years.

Management contends the orchestra is running a $1.5 million annual deficit and that the cumulative debt includes at least $10 million needed to keep the pension fund solvent over the next five years. That’s one reason management also wants to freeze pensions for any musician with less than 30 years’ experience and move them into a 401(k) plan, another proposal the union opposes.

The musicians have agreed to other concessions in the past, including a nearly 10 percent pay cut in 2011. A 15 percent pay cut would reduce musicians’ base pay from $107,239 to $91,153, the union said, with annual raises of 2 percent and 3 percent in each of the next two years, though management contends some musicians would double their base pay with certain incentives and get up to 10 weeks’ vacation and 12 weeks’ sick time each year.

The new cancellations include the Nov. 18 Light Up Night concert, which is part of a downtown celebration marking the beginning of the city’s traditional holiday shopping season.

The orchestra also is indefinitely postponing the “Haydn’s Creation” concerts that had been scheduled for early December in conjunction with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh because musicians will need additional time to prepare even if the strike ends before then.

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