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Musicians withdraw labor complaint against symphony

By Michael Tsai

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:32 p.m. HST, Oct 16, 2010



 

The Honolulu Symphony musicians have withdrawn an unfair labor practices complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to spur symphony management into submitting its long-awaited bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The Musicians' Association of Hawaii, Local 677 of the American Federation of Musicians, filed the grievance in July after the Honolulu Symphony Society, which oversees the symphony, claimed it had "accepted the resignations" of the symphony's 63 full-time musicians following unsuccessful contract negotiations. The musicians insisted they had not resigned.

Kimberly Miyazawa-Frank, chairwoman of the symphony board of directors, informed the board on Tuesday via e-mail that the plan could not be submitted because of the musicians' pending case.

The reorganization plan was originally due to be submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday, but the Honolulu Symphony Society filed for and was granted an extension.

"Their claim that they couldn't submit the plan because of our grievance was hollow -- there was nothing preventing them from doing so -- but we decided to withdraw simply to help us all move forward," said Jonathan Parrish, a spokesperson for the musicians' association and co-vice chairman of the orchestra committee. "Nobody wants to wait two more months to see what their plan for the future is."

The society is scheduled to return to court on Dec. 13, at which time a new date for submittal will be determined.

"We're glad to learn that they withdrew the complaint, but they announced that on Friday and we still need time to go through all of the steps," said symphony Executive Director Majken Mechling. "We spent a great deal of time dealing with these charges and now we're looking forward to focusing on our real goal of having a viable and sustainable future for our symphony."

Mechling said the reorganization plan still needs to be approved by the full board.

According to Parrish, who also sits on the board, the last two monthly meetings were canceled.

The 110-year-old symphony filed for bankruptcy last December and canceled the second half of its 2009-2010 season.

Relations between the symphony society and the musicians have been tense, with both sides accusing the other of unrealistic demands. The symphony society has previously indicated that any viable reorganization plan would have to include reductions in the number of performances and other cost-cutting measures, in addition to expanded educational outreach and community involvement. 

The musicians said the proposed cuts -- including a drastic reduction in overall musician compensation -- would mean that musicians would have to accept less than a living wage just to play.

Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement broke down last summer and have yet to be reopened.

Symphony musicians have remained active in other venues, including this weekend's independently organized "110 Years of Master Works" concert at St. Andrew's Cathedral.







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