SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Musicians of the Grammy-winning San Francisco Symphony went on strike on Wednesday after contract talks with management deadlocked, threatening a planned U.S. East Coast tour featuring concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington.
The orchestra's management canceled a scheduled Thursday matinee concert of Mahler's Ninth Symphony after the musicians failed to show up for a Wednesday rehearsal, the two sides said.
Symphony spokesman Oliver Theil said management planned to offer a revised contract proposal during a meeting set for Thursday with a federal mediator, but the 103 musicians, all union members, chose to strike before seeing it.
"As of now, the musicians are on strike," Theil said. "We'll have to wait and see if they will hear our proposal on Thursday."
Union spokesman Nathan Ballard confirmed by email that the musicians had begun a walkout.
"We are at a standstill with management," he said. "They have failed to come forward with any proposal whatsoever. We are going on strike effective immediately."
On Tuesday, a handful of the musicians played Beethoven in City Hall to bring attention to the labor dispute, which hinges on wages and benefits.
The musicians voted last week to walk out by next Tuesday, when they are due to leave for an East Coast tour, if no deal were reached by then, Ballard said.
"We hope to be able to break the logjam and go to Carnegie Hall, but management needs to stop dragging their feet," he said on Wednesday.
The symphony's musicians have been working without a contract since February 10, the day they won their 15th Grammy Award.
Management's latest contract offer would keep members' salaries in the top three among U.S. orchestral musicians, alongside those for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Theil said.
San Francisco Symphony musicians earn an average annual salary of $165,000, with a minimum salary of $141,700, he said.
(Reporting by Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Steve Gorman and Dale Hudson)