Below are some frequently asked questions about the ongoing negotiations between the Pacific Symphony musicians and their employer. Thanks for your interest in this process, and as always do not hesitate to contact us.

Frequently asked Questions

1)    What is a guarantee anyway?

98% of America’s orchestra musicians are hired one of two ways. Either on the basis of a weekly salary with a guaranteed number of work weeks resulting in an annual salary or on a per-service basis with a guaranteed number of services annually. Pacific Symphony musicians are guaranteed neither. This is the critical point of these negotiations.

2) What is a “service?”

A service is a period of work (rehearsal or performance) for which musicians are paid a set rate. 

3) What has management offered?

Pacific Symphony management has proposed an annual service guarantee with a minimum of just under the number of services scheduled for this season. The compensation for these services would be about $39,000 per year for the average Pacific Symphony musician. The Musicians unanimously declined this offer for several reasons.

First, the proposal includes many loopholes that would allow the Symphony to offer less than the guaranteed minimum number of services.

Second, the number of services guaranteed reflects no plan to grow the number of concert offerings in the coming years.

Third, and most importantly, the Symphony’s proposal does not reflect the reality that Pacific Symphony employment is not full time, and all of the musicians must maintain other jobs to make a living. In a community where the median home price is well over $600,000 and average monthly apartment rent is over $1500, musicians must juggle performing in multiple ensembles as well as teaching. The Symphony’s proposed “guaranteed” income of $39,000 for the average musician is not nearly enough to live on.

In order to earn the “guaranteed” $39,000, musicians would have to hold open all of the Symphony’s dates, without knowing which ones they would actually be employed for. The musicians’ “guaranteed” income would be reduced if they accepted other work and were not available for Pacific Symphony at short notice, but they would not be paid for dates they held and were not called for. 

Management’s proposal also would make it more difficult to earn outside income by significantly increasing the amount of advance notice required to take unpaid leave from any Pacific Symphony service.

4) What have musicians proposed?

The musicians have proposed an annual service guarantee that is very similar in number of services to the first year of management’s offer. Compensation for the average Pacific Symphony musician would be about $40,000 per year. The musicians’ proposal reflects a modest increase in services offered in subsequent years.

The musicians have also proposed terms that balance the necessary scheduling flexibility with a more solid employment guarantee. Under this system, each musician would know at the beginning of the season which services they would be offered as well as how much they would earn and when they would earn it. In exchange, musicians would agree to a more limited system for taking unpaid leave from Pacific Symphony services they accepted.

5)    How much do these proposals cost?

Below are the costs of each proposal demonstrated as the highest possible cost and the most likely actual cost. The likely actual cost reflects the fact that some musicians may not accept all of the offered employment because of other performing commitments.

For reference, current scheduled services from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 reflect a total cost of $4.35 million (approximately 22% of the symphony’s annual budget) for musician wages and benefits relating to orchestral services.

Management Proposal

First year maximum cost – $4.89 million ($535k increase) – 24.5% of budget
First year expected cost – $4.76 million ($321k increase) – 24% of budget

4 year total increase in investment
Maximum – $975k (22% increase)
Expected – $585k (13% increase)

Musicians/Union Proposal

First year maximum – $5.03 million ($682k increase) – 25% of budget
First year expected – $4.85 million ($409k increase) – 24% of budget

4 year total increase in investment
Maximum – $2.83 million (65% increase)
Expected – $1.7 million (39% increase)

6)    Why spend the additional monies?

Now more than ever, the Pacific Symphony needs to consider its ability to attract and retain top musicians from around the world. In the past, Orange County has benefited from a world class group of professional players made up mostly of Southern California residents who earn the majority of their income doing freelance work, such as playing in the motion picture industry. However, the availability of consistent freelance employment for musicians has declined rapidly in the recent past, and continues to do so.

Now, most Pacific Symphony musicians rely on Pacific Symphony as their primary source of income. Similarly, prospective candidates for auditions are determining their interest in joining the orchestra solely by the wages and benefits being offered by Pacific Symphony.

In addition, musicians who have played in the Symphony for many years are organizing their lives and careers increasingly around the Pacific Symphony. They are focusing their time and energy on creating great performances and education programs for Orange County audiences.

In order to compete with other orchestras around the country for new members, and to allow our musicians to invest their talents in Orange County’s own world class orchestra, Pacific Symphony must offer an employment package that allows musicians to live and raise families in the Pacific Symphony’s Orange County community.

The artistic excellence that our Pacific Symphony patrons value and enjoy depends on the choices we make now and for the future.

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