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Symphony Announces Staff Cuts

September 16, 1986|HILLIARD HARPER | San Diego County Arts Writer

SAN DIEGO — As stalemated contract negotiations between musicians and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra Assn. moved into a third week, symphony management announced staff reductions and the "postponement" of an innovative 10-concert series that was to debut this year.

News conferences held Monday by both sides only demonstrated the width of the gap between the musicians and management. Musicians' representative Greg Berton told reporters in the morning that management was "threatening to starve us out" over the five weeks remaining before the scheduled opening concert of the winter season, on Oct. 24. Rehearsals are to begin Oct. 21, Berton said.

Berton claimed that management was using "every legal means to harass the musicians during these negotiations and we want the public to be aware of it."

The symphony did make a "good-faith" payment to the players Tuesday, the last check they can expect to receive until a contract is signed.

Management had not paid the players since Aug. 14, the last date, it maintains, that the musicians were due a check under the contract that expired Aug. 31. The musicians are disputing a missed payday on Aug. 28 which they say was due them for the coming season.

Symphony President Herbert Solomon denied that not paying the musicians was part of a plan to pressure the players to come to terms.

Solomon said it would be financially "imprudent and irresponsible" for the association to pay the musicians while there is no agreement. The musicians' salaries for the symphony's 45-week season were spread over the entire contract year. He claimed the musicians engaged in foot-dragging throughout the summer, a tactic that allowed the players to be paid through the pops season, which ended Sunday.

The symphony, which has signed guest artists and sold more than $1 million worth of season tickets, will be under immense pressure to come to terms before the season begins, Solomon said.

At the core of the impasse is the association's proposal to reduce the length of the annual season, which would result in a cut in pay for the musicians. In 1985-86, the symphony had a 45-week season. Solomon says the symphony cannot afford more than 38 weeks.

"If the musicians agreed to every financial concession, it would only come to one-third of the deficit we will have," Solomon said. He said that a 45-week season would put the symphony $1.5 million in debt.

At the afternoon news conference, Solomon said Executive Director Wesley Brustad has cut the symphony's staff by 24%--approximately nine positions. Solomon said the association has committed itself to matching every dollar cut from musicians' salaries by "at least" a $1 reduction in administrative and production costs.

In addition, on behalf of Music Director David Atherton, Solomon said the association will postpone until next year the "Sounds Unusual" concert series of 20th Century music.

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