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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Cash crisis hits orchestra
The BBC Proms
Orchestras are having to change contracts to secure funding
One of Britain's leading orchestras could face bankruptcy after crucial talks with its musicians broke down.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) wanted musicians to agree to new contracts so it could secure "stabilisation" funding from the Arts Council of England, which would write off debts of 1.5m.

But after Musicians' Union advice, 74 out of 76 CBSO players voted to reject the new package, which would have cut their earnings by around 2,000 per year.

Unless a new budget strategy is approved to secure the Arts Council funding, the CBSO may not be able to pay its musicians after November.

Restructuring

The musicians' rejection came despite last week's pay deal at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) which gave musicians a small increase in salaries in return for losing fees for recordings, broadcasts and educational work.

The Arts Council of England has now agreed to rescue the RLPO, wiping out its 3.5m debts and providing 1.9m towards restructuring.

The CBSO players won worldwide fame under conductor Sir Simon Rattle, and are establishing a new reputation with their Finnish music director Sakari Oramo.

They were also asked to accept a package that would have altered working conditions and ended extra payments for recordings and broadcasts.

Simon Rattle
Simon Rattle enhanced the CBSO's reputation
These extra payments are worth about 2,000 on top of salaries that begin at about 20,000.

Bob Wearn, Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians' Union told BBC News Online that, unlike those for the RLPO, the proposed changes for the CBSO came "with no money attached for the orchestral players".

Wearn said that the conditions attached to Arts Council stabilisation funding were often "onerous" but that the MU would remain involved in negotiations.

"Something has to be done to ensure the survival of the orchestra," he said.

A CBSO spokeswoman told BBC News Online the proposed package did involve money for media work and compensation payments for musicians, but the new contract would be structured differently.

"We are not at crisis point - this is a small part of a whole strategy for change across the whole organisation," she said.

The CBSO still hoped to be able to win stabilisation funding, said the spokeswoman.

The CBSO board will meet on Thursday to discuss the budget, and talks with the players are continuing.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Orchestra boss quits
13 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Government rattles Sir Simon
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