Musicians who refused to accept steep pay cuts demanded by the financially struggling Detroit Symphony Orchestra have hit the picket lines. 

Dozens of tuxedo-clad musicians began picketing Monday morning outside the Max M. Fisher Music Center in downtown Detroit, as a French horn quartet played in the background. 

They carried signs reading “DSO Quality since 1887,” “On strike DSO unfair” and “Keep your DSO in the Top 10.”  It’s the second time they’ve been on strike in 25 years.

Symphony management declared an impasse Sept. 1st and began implementing a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. 

“The fact that a proposal like this was put forth shows that perhaps that there is a misconception that Detroit doesn’t need a fine orchestra,” said violinist Joe Striplin, with the DSO for 38 years. 

Musicians had offered to accept a 22 percent reduction in the first year to $82,000. 

Cellist and musicians’ spokesman Hayden McKay said the proposed 33 percent cut is simply too steep. 

McKay told WWJ’s Beth Fisher that they haven’t heard anything from management in more than a week, and going to strike was a last resort. 

“It’s no one’s first choice to be on the strike. It’s something that harms the institution short-term, and the ticket-buyers are disappointed. Not to mention the fact that the musicians and their families won’t have salary or benefits,” McKay said. 

McKay said they are willing to continue negotiations; they hope this isn’t a long strike. 

No new contract talks have been scheduled. 

President and CEO of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Ann Parsons says management is happy to talk, but the Musicians Union has been unwilling to bargain. 

“It’s interesting because we’ve offered to get together a couple of time — we’ve done it in writing to every individual member… they haven’t responded directly to us. They haven’t taken us up on our offer to get together,” Parsons said. 

“I am a little confused about the differences in the facts. But, clearly, we are standing by, ready to talk with them at any time,” she said. 

Parsons tells WWJ they will make a decision sometime Tuesday regarding what will happen with upcoming scheduled orchestra concerts. 

A statement released Monday by the orchestra board’s executive committee said the strike was the  “worst possible outcome of these talks and we hope that it will end quickly so the music can return to Orchestra Hall.” 

“The musicians are fighting for artistic excellence for the DSO and we wholeheartedly join them in this fight but there can be no artistic excellence without viability,” the statement read.  “We hope the players will be realistic as negotiations progress, that a hurtful, lingering strike can be avoided, and that together – musicians, board, and audience – we will once again make and enjoy the majestic music that has come to be the signature sound of the DSO.” 

The musicians union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. 

The DSO expects a $9 million deficit this year. 

(Copyright 2010. WWJ Newsradio 950. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)