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Striking PSO Cancels Shows Through Nov. 18

Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled all concerts through Nov. 18, including the Light Up Night Community Concert that evening that is part of the city's traditional holiday shopping season kickoff.

The orchestra had previously canceled concerts through Oct. 27 after the musicians went on strike Sept. 30. Both parties ended mediation when the musicians called the strike.

In dueling news releases, the orchestra and management can't even agree on why the concerts have been canceled.

Management says the musicians' union hasn't contacted it "through official channels" to resume contract talks. The union says the decision to cancel the concerts was made by "management alone."

In a release, Micah Howard, PSO bassist and chair of the musicians’ orchestra committee, said the decision to cancel performances was made by, “management and management only.”

“We are ready to negotiate an end to this dispute so the musicians can be back on stage at Heinz Hall," he said. "But management has repeatedly declared that they are unwilling to compromise – and that they won’t even meet with us unless we accept the ‘last, best and final’ contract demands they made a month ago.”

Christian Shornich, vice president and chief operating officer of the PSO, said the musicians haven’t reached out to management, the mediator or the symphony’s lawyers to continue negotiations.

“We look forward to getting back to the table as soon as possible,” he said.

Shornich said the concerts were cancelled because of the union strike and the decision came from the executive committee of the board of trustees.

“In consideration of our concert and ticket subscribers because not only is sales ongoing, we need our audience to be in the picture of concerts that might not happen to adjust their plans accordingly,” he said.

If the strike were to end before Nov. 18, Shornich said it’s a possibility concerts would be reinstated or rescheduled.

“We would like to continue our work to our best of ability that serves the audiences so that concerts we’ve scheduled right now might not get lost,” he said. 

The musicians are objecting to a 15-percent pay and other concessions management says it necessary to keep the symphony solvent in the face of more than $20 million in debt over the next five years.

“What is important for us is that all parties at the table understand the situation and the true financial crisis that the Pittsburgh Symphony is in,” Shornich said.

He said since negotiations began with musicians in February, management has offered independent reviews of the symphony’s financial records and ongoing audit. So far, he said, that offer hasn’t been accepted.

“We are looking forward to having independent financial reviews that will then enable us to come to the common ground and that we talk about solving this tremendous crisis together,” he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.
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