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Proposed Pay Cut Prompts Detroit Symphony Musicians To Withhold Services

September 22, 1987

DETROIT (AP) _ Members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra decided to stop the music rather than accept an 11 percent pay cut, and two concerts have been canceled, officials said.

The symphony’s two-year contract expired at midnight Sunday. Bargaining reached an impasse after musicians refused to accept the cuts proposed by the symphony board.

On Monday, the board said Thursday’s and Saturday’s performances were canceled after musicians did not show up for rehearsal that morning.

″Never before in the history of a major symphony has there been talk of pay cuts, let alone imposing cuts,″ said Stacey Woolley, spokesman for the musicians.

Woolley said the 101-member orchestra was invited to return to work, but only if it would accept the 11 percent pay cut. Management rejected a union offer to extend the current contract while negotiating a new pact under mediation, Woolley said.

Management claims the orchestra is on strike; the union contends it’s being locked out.

″We set no strike date. We took no strike vote,″ Woolley said, adding that management’s decision to cut pay placed the musicians in an untenable position, ″in effect a lockout.″

But orchestra President Oleg Lobanov said, ″There are no locks on the doors.″

Contract talks between management and the Detroit Federation of Musicians Local 5 were scheduled to resume Sept. 29, Woolley said.

Management cited a 1986-87 deficit of at least $1 million in calling for pay cuts. Officials had planned to exclude music director Gunther Herbig from any cuts, but Herbig said he would share in any reduction of his musicians’ salaries, according to the symphony.

″We wish we could pay our musicians more,″ said Walter J. McCarthy, chairman of the symphony’s board. ″We think they’re worth it. We thought so years ago when we increased their salaries.

″We tried to find the revenues to support that kind of salary level,″ McCarthy said. ″The money just does not seem to be there. We cut everything else we could first. And now we must deal with salaries. To avoid implementing the cutbacks at this time would be economically irresponsible and jeopardize their jobs.″

In a statement issued Monday, the board said the musicians sought a 19.7 percent pay increase for one year that would bring the minimum annual salary to $56,680, up from $47,320.

Orchestra members had performed since Thursday, the first night of the symphony’s 1987-88 season.

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