100 German Orchestras Strike to Protest Orchestra Shutdowns, Stagnant Pay

By Louise Burton on Oct 01, 2013 05:17 AM EDT

More than 100 orchestras across Germany went on a 24-hour strike on Monday. They are protesting the recent closure of a number of orchestras across Germany, most recently the shuttering of radio orchestras in the southwest. The Berlin Philharmonic was the first ensemble to strike, followed by orchestras in other major German cities including Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig and Dresden.

The strike, organized by the German Orchestra Union, is also requesting a pay raise equal to that of other public servants. According to the union, salaries for other public servants have risen by eight percent since 2010, while orchestral musicians' salaries have stagnated.

This strike comes one day before salary negotiations with the German Stage Association (GSA) are scheduled to begin. GSA is the organization responsible for compensating orchestral musicians in Germany.

Since 1992, 37 professional orchestras have been closed down or forced to merge. This has resulted in the loss of about 2,500 jobs for professional musicians in Germany. The number of German professional orchestras now stands at 131--down from a high of 168 in 1991.

These developments are very unusual for Germany, a country with a long tradition of government support for symphony orchestras.

This news comes only a week after news that 1,000 professional musicians in Spain performed in a simultaneous concert to protest a reduction in arts funding and a steep rise in value-added tax on concert tickets.

23 Spanish orchestras participated in the performances, held in 16 cities. These orchestras included the National Orchestra of Spain, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

The coordinated concert protested against cuts in arts budgets that have brought several orchestras in Spain to the brink of shutting down. The musicians also protested a cultural value-added tax that has risen from 8 percent to 21 percent over the past year.

It's been a bad week, indeed, for symphony orchestras in Spain and Germany. Here's hoping that the musicians' protests achieve their intended goals.

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