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Boycott on Malaysian orchestra sounded

 | August 1, 2012

An international musicians' group has called for players to shun New York MPO auditions over claims that nine of the MPO staff were unfairly sacked.

PETALING JAYA: The French-based International Federation of Musicians (FIM) has called for a worldwide boycott of auditions for the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), following claims that nine of the latter’s expatriate staff were sacked for no reason.

In a statement on its website, FIM said that the Petronas-owned MPO sent “non-renewal” notices to the nine, with their former posts filled via auditions held in New York from Oct 4 to 8 this year.

“Dismissed are [the] concertmaster, co-concertmaster, tutti 1st violin, tutti viola, section percussion, principal timpani, principal trombone… Also included are [the] principal piano and another section viola,” the statement said.

It added that some of these staff were formerly members of the MPO’s committee.

The first seven people, which FIM declined to name, had allegedly filed legal action before the Industrial Relations Court in Kuala Lumpur, with the case due for review and referral to a court hearing.

FIM said that the principal piano position was being cut, and that the “2nd violist”, who presumably held the section viola post, was past retirement age.

“So they are unable to take legal action,” the statement said of the two.

Auditions, according to the MPO’s website, were being held for 14 positions, including for a concertmaster, tutti violin and two section percussionists.

The website added that auditions would also be held in KL from Dec 3 to 5 this year. Applications for these auditions ended yesterday.

On March 3, the Star reported that several musicians had been given a six-month notice to leave by the end of the season.

It quoted an unnamed founding member, who claimed that his contract was ended without reason.

In the report, MPO marketing assistant director Mufidah Mahmud said that all musicians with the MPO were employed on a fixed-term contract basis.

Their renewal, she added, depended on the orchestra’s management, after consulting its music director, Claus Peter Flor.

Reduced contracts offered

FIM however said that the nine, some of whom had been with the MPO for as long as 14 years, were not the only ones affected.

Those musicians still employed there (numbering around 70), it said, were supposedly given new contracts.

“These seven players, and the Orchestra Committee, would most certainly be the voices of the orchestra in protesting the changes and disrespect that this new contract represents to the musicians.

“Now however, the intimidation effect of firing these seven has assured the management of little or no resistance in getting it signed and accomplished. Musicians were asked to sign and return the new contracts within a few days,” the statement said.

It added that 23 other vacancies in the MPO were being offered “much reduced contracts”.

“Net members will be signing for 20% to 25% less pay than existing members – replacing illegally dismissed, long-term, dedicated musicians, with scaled-down contracts,” it said.

FMT had requested the MPO for comment. It was still awaiting a response.


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