CHICAGO: Members of the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra began striking Monday after 11 months of pay talks failed to reach an agreement.
The musicians say the company is asking them to reduce overall salary and benefits despite increasing revenue from sales and donations.
“Management is trying to reduce our basic benefit package and end our guaranteed retirement benefits which will harm members and present a danger to the future of the orchestra itself,” said Steve Lester, a bassist who leads the musicians’ negotiating team, citing the orchestra’s multi-million dollar endowment.
Daily picket lines were planned to stretch along Chicago’s Orchestra Hall until a deal was reached.
The orchestra association said it was disappointed in the strike decision, particularly amid an ongoing season.
Helen Zell, head of the CSO Board of Trustees, said no concert cancellations were planned. The next performance was scheduled for Tuesday.
The board called the musicians’ labor requirements “unreasonable and detrimental to a sustainable future for the CSO.”
But the orchestra’s music director Riccardo Muti has voiced support for the striking members, saying in a letter to the board that “I understand their needs and how they should be treated, and the fact that they are among the best musicians in the world.”
“I hope that the board will remember that theirs is not a job but a mission, and that tranquility and serenity will be given for the artists to do their work,” he said.
The strike follows a similar action at Chicago’s Lyric Opera — represented by the same union as the symphony members — in October last year, when members of the premier arts institution walked out over cost-cutting efforts they said would reduce quality on stage. —AFP