Houston Agrees, Detroit Strikes: What’s the Difference?

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

On October 1st, Houston Symphony musicians agreed to a four-year contract, which freezes salaries at a minimum of $1,575 per week for the first year. Each season after the first year, salaries will increase about 2.5 percent.

On October 4th, Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike, following months of negotiations between musicians and management. For veteran musicians, management proposed a 33% pay cut with an increase of 4.3% over three years. For incoming players, the base salary would be cut by 42%. The musicians countered with a 22% cut with an increase of 17.8% in the third year.

So what’s the difference? Obviously there are a lot of differences, including a great difference in 2010 deficits of the orchestras–$500,000 for Houston and $9 million for Detroit. Freezing salaries is also different than cutting them by 33%. However, I believe that there may also be a difference in musicians-management relations.

Following the October 1st agreement, Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO Mark C. Hanson said, “That we have reached this agreement in a really positive, constructive and respectful fashion speaks volumes about the high level of trust and confidence that we all have in each other.” Where as DSO musicians feel betrayed and out of the loop about decision-making while DSO management feels they’ve been perfectly direct and open with information.

Admittedly, I do not know the level of musicians-management relations that existed for either orchestra before negotiations; however, I think that strong relations that instill trust and encourage open communication set an important tone in an organization. Management must always be transparent with information and forward with disseminating this information to its musicians so they are aware of the realities of the organization’s financial situation. On the other hand, musicians must be receptive to and take the time to understand this information. If this kind of open relationship is established from the beginning, everyone can be on the same page when it comes time to negotiate. Of course this will not make negotiations easy–people will always disagree. But it will strengthen the relationship between musicians and management so that the proceedings can be more constructive.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/star/7228247.html

–Siobhan

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