The 4/6/2009 edition of the Star Tribune published an article by Graydon Royce that examines a recent round of budget and pay cuts at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO). The article reports that the organization’s president indicated that pay cuts for management and staff took place before approaching musicians. This is the same procedure most organizations instituting pay cuts this season have demonstrated and on the surface it sounds fine, but in reality it contains a fundamental procedural flaw…
The move by SPCO’s president, Sarah Lutman, is on track with recommend concessionary practices (Point # 2, “Stakeholder Parity“) but according to the Star Tribune article, Lutman made a point to indicate that executive and staff cuts were decided and implemented before approaching musicians.
[Lutman] said it was key that management and staff took pay cuts before approaching musicians to do likewise. After that, Lutman said, “There never was any inkling that the musicians would do anything but step forward to help keep us vital and exciting.”
As well intended as this might sound, implementing administrative salary cuts before approaching musicians only serves to reinforce the negative old-school “us against them” mentality. Ultimately, it is just as unfair to middle managers and entry level staffers as it is to the musicians.
The only real exception to this is if immediate management and staff cuts are the only options available to prevent financial impasse, it is better to examine the current state of the institution with all stakeholders and use that collective input to expand the possibilities of uncovering a comprehensive set of options before coming to a mutually agreeable solution.
Fortunately (unless I missed something), the SPCO didn’t follow the dark path that some other organizations have been seduced toward of implementing administrative cuts, announcing those publicly, and then approaching remaining stakeholders. Nonetheless, at best this process is simply good intentions run amok but in the worst of cases, it is a deliberate attempt to limit stakeholder input and institute reactionary strategic visioning.