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Symphony musicians, management take big pay cuts

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Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians will take a 12-percent pay cut this year, saving the cash-strapped organization $4 million.

They aren’t the only ones sacrificing pay. CEO Simon Crookall will take a 15-percent pay cut, effective this month, the ISO also said Wednesday morning. Crookall was paid $231,288 during the 2008 fiscal year. Vice presidents also will see their salaries reduced by 10 percent, and remaining administrative staff will take a 5-percent cut. The administrative salary reductions will save the orchestra another $2 million.

Members of the musicians' union, American Federation of Musicians, Local 3, ratified the three-year contract on Oct. 4 by a vote of 68 to 3. They had rejected the first offer on Sept. 11.

The management-side pay cuts may have helped bring the musicians in line. “The musicians were very interested in it,” bargaining committee chairman Mike Borschel said. “But it was never a demand from us.”

The musicians will see their base pay drop to $1,355 a week, or $70,460 a year. In the last six months, their base pay had risen to $1,540 a week.

The new contract promises to restore most of the base pay by the end of the three-year period. The musicians will get back 2.7 percent in the first year and 7.8 percent in the third year.

The players also agreed to take on a larger share of health insurance premiums and accepted a “limited” reduction in pension earnings.

“The ISO musicians are to be commended for understanding the financial difficulties the orchestra is facing,” Crookall said in a prepared statement. “I am grateful for the extraordinary amount of effort and commitment it took to arrive at this point, and I recognize the sacrifices the musicians and staff are all making to get through this challenging economic time together.”

The ISO had already shaved $1.7 million from its $26.8 million budget during the 2009 fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31. Crookall said in this morning’s announcement that he’d eliminated 13 administrative positions and trimmed other budgets.

The ISO has not yet announced the results of its 2009 fiscal year. The orchestra ended 2008 in the red by $293,000.

“The actions and decisions made as a result of the new contract, albeit significant, are not enough to erase the current or future operating deficits at the ISO,” board Chairman Bob Kaspar said in Wednesday's announcement. He said the board is looking to boost both annual giving and “significant” contributions to the endowment, which has been severely eroded. “The next two years will be critical in making progress toward all our financial goals.”

Borschel echoed the concern about community support. He said the musicians have agreed to donate their time for one fund-raising concert a year for the next three years.

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