New Cuts Equal Dark Weeks At The San Antonio Symphony

In what feels like a roller coaster that simply won’t end, the San Antonio Symphony (SAS) recently announced a new round of cuts via a reopener to its existing two-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which covers the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.

Adaptistration People 192The only potential silver lining in the cuts is instead of making the reductions permanent by reducing base wages, benefits, or season length, stakeholders agreed to opt for a temporary forced three-week unpaid furlough for the 2016-17 season.

Although exact details have yet to be released, an article by David Hendricks in the 3/26/2016 edition of the San Antonio Express-News reports that the cut amounts to approximately 10 percent reduction in annual pay.

The SAS’ cycle of up and down financials have a long history but a string of executive leaders has yet to produce an environment of economic and labor stability.

Here’s an overview of the orchestra’s base musician wage and season length (in weeks) that covers the 2001/02 season through the newly revised 2016/17 furlough week season (note: the 2003/04 season is excluded due to an extended work stoppage).

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Both stakeholders played down the news although the Express-News article reports that musician cuts were paired with shared sacrifice among senior executives and the music director, who agreed to a 10 percent reduction in their 2016/17 annual salaries.

Although the Express-News article reports the cuts are a direct byproduct of donor pressure to arrive at a zero debt balance by the end of the 2016/17 season, it is important to remember that season marks the end of the existing CBA. Consequently, this means stakeholders will begin negotiating a replacement agreement as early as September 2016.

Whether or not the SAS’ decision to acquiesce to zero-debt pressures will impact those bargaining sessions is something we’ll almost certainly be examining at this time next year. Stay tuned.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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