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San Francisco Symphony scraps East Coast tour due to strike

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The San Francisco Symphony on Sunday canceled an East Coast tour scheduled to begin this week at Carnegie Hall in New York, after management and the orchestra players' union failed to reach an agreement during federally mediated contract talks.

The 103 musicians have been on strike since Wednesday, prompting the cancellation of three San Francisco performances of Mahler's Ninth Symphony. The canceled East Coast tour was scheduled to include concerts at Carnegie Hall on March 20 and the Kennedy Center in Washington on March 23.

The decision to cancel the tour was made after three days of marathon negotiations.

"We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour," said Brent Assink, the symphony's executive director.

"We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information and have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time."

A spokesman for the musicians was not immediately available for comment.

Symphony spokesman Oliver Theil said the musicians rejected a proposal for a two-year contract with annual salary increases of one percent and two percent.

The musicians say that they must be compensated as well as their peers in the country's top orchestras to retain the most talented players. Base pay for musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is slightly higher than base pay for San Francisco Symphony musicians.

San Francisco's musicians earn an average annual salary of $165,000, with a minimum salary of $141,700, Theil said.

The musicians have been working without a contract since February 15, five days after the ensemble received its 15th Grammy Award for best orchestral performance.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Paul Simao)

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