Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Cleveland Orchestra in Crisis - Part 2

I'd like to follow up on my recent post on the Cleveland Orchestra.

It has come to my attention that the orchestra's players, have in fact been making concessions over the last several years, including: a pay freeze in 2004-2005; four consecutive years with raises that were lower than comparably placed orchestras; a two year freeze on the Musical Arts Association's (the managing arm of The Cleveland Orchestra) contributions to the pension fund; a 50% reduction in payments for broadcasts; increased employee contributions to the health insurance plan; freezes in seniority pay, overtime pay, and travel reimbursement.

In addition, several posts within the orchestra itself remain vacant, an apparent cost cutting measure.

If you worked for a private company that contributed to your pension, such as with matching funds, and this benefit was withdrawn, how would that affect you? If your salary was frozen for a year, then your raises below the average for your industry, how would you feel? If you had to pay more for your health insurance, would you still want to work for that company? Would your loyalty to that company, once touted as the best of its kind in the United States, be tested by superior offers from other companies?

In my last post, I stated that sacrifice should be shared. But it is increasingly obvious that the sacrifices have been shouldered by the orchestra's players for several years.

Music director Franz Welser-Most and executive Gary Hanson have also taken pay cuts. But Welser-Most has a second gig as director of the Vienna State Opera and guest conducts all over the world. He can afford the cut in pay he has taken and much more. And given the uneven nature of his conducting, it's legitimate to question whether he's worth even his reduced salary.

As for Hanson, he's the second highest paid orchestra executive in America, and makes far more than even the President of the United States. Yet his tenure has been marked by increased strife with the orchestra and declining finances. Even with the cut he's taken, Hanson is still drawing a very high salary -- which he's declined to disclose publicly. Is he worth the pay he receives?

Now, the orchestra's every day staff, those who do everything from run the box office to clean the bathrooms, have taken a pay cut. And many of these people were not particularly well paid by anyone's measure.

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