Facing ongoing financial hit from the pandemic, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians ratify amended contract with pay cuts

WORKING TOGETHER through the financial hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Musicians Local 2-197 have agreed to amend their contract and accept a temporary pay reduction

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra management, members of the orchestra, and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 2-197 have ratified an amendment the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020/2021 season, effective Jan. 11 through Aug. 29.

To provide relief from longer-term financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, orchestra members have agreed to a $3.75 million  reduction in compensation from March 13, 2020 through Aug. 29, 2021.

Steven Finerty, chair of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) board of trustees, said, “All of us are extremely grateful to the St. Louis community for its remarkable and generous support of the SLSO as we adjusted operations over the last 10 months due to the pandemic. The Board and management greatly appreciate the sacrifices made by SLSO orchestra membership to maintain and support the financial health of the organization and recognize the genuine collaborative spirit all parties brought to the process. We are grateful we can continue providing musicians with competitive salaries during this challenging time.

“We look forward to emerging from the pandemic as a healthy institution on all fronts and are eager to welcome patrons back to Powell Hall to enjoy experiencing music with our world-class SLSO,”  he said.

“The musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra are grateful for the outstanding support of the Board of Trustees and our donor community during this challenging time,” said Timothy Myers, chair of the orchestra negotiation committee and principal trombonist for the SLSO.

“This agreement reflects the orchestra’s commitment to continuing our performance and outreach activities during the pandemic. The union’s flexibility regarding work rules and media activities will provide numerous opportunities for the SLSO to engage our audiences and donors.

“Despite the pandemic, we look forward to continuing orchestra concerts in Powell Hall and smaller, socially distanced performances throughout the region, as well as educational activities,” Myers said.

“We believe that this agreement adequately protects musicians, and that it is fair, flexible, and sustainable.”

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • Musicians will retain 85 percent of their base pay and 80 percent of other compensation, including career track and overscale, in addition to health benefits and pension contributions. In the fall, musicians agreed to a significant pay cut of 40 percent in addition to a further 20 percent reduction in overscale.
  • Continued flexibility of the current collective bargaining agreement rules to accommodate programming and scheduling needs of performances, educational programs, and recorded content during the pandemic.
  • Musicians received full pay during the forced cancellation symphony performances from March 12 to April 6, 2020, after which and through September 9, 2020, the orchestra’s members accepted a salary reduction, retaining 78 percent of their regular wages. The SLSO continued to provide full health insurance benefits and pension contributions.
  • All parties again worked collaboratively to temporarily amend the contract from Sept. 11, 2020, through Jan. 11, 2021. For that period of time, the orchestra membership agreed to $1.5 million of compensation reduction.
  • Instrument loan program payments were deferred through Jan. 11, 2021, without interest accrual.
  • Musicians agreed to a flexible service allotment to allow production of performances, educational, and recorded content to continue during this unprecedented crisis.

The SLSO — which hosted a series of live concerts with audiences this fall — is continuing to adapt to the changing environment and to adjust plans to resume live offerings, and continues to offer a robust menu of digital content for all audiences.

Due to the cancellation of the season as originally planned, the SLSO is projecting a loss of $8 million in revenue for fiscal year 2021 ending Aug. 31.

To help offset the projected loss of revenue and financial impact of the crisis on the short- and long-term health of the institution, the SLSO has reduced its $31 million budget to $19 million, making more than $10 million in expense reductions thus far, including reductions of direct expenses associated with performances at Powell Hall and outside vendors that support facilities and advertising.

Effective Sept. 1, 2020, the SLSO implemented a salary freeze, followed by a furlough week taken by the entire staff in November.

Since March 2020, Music Director Stéphane Denève took a salary reduction commensurate to the musicians’ while the President and CEO and Executive Team have taken salary reductions ranging from 10 to 25 percent.

For more information on the symphony and online offerings, visit slso.org.



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