Pension costs for Norwegian theatres and orchestras have increased by NOK 70 million (USD 11.7 million) over three years. The Oslo Philharmonic (Oslo-Filharmonien, OFO) is the latest to be hit, expecting an increase of NOK 6.7 million this year on top of the stipulated NOK 16.2 million pension cost.
“We have had to budget for a deficit of NOK 5.7 million this year because of the pension,” the OFO’s director Ingrid Røynesdal told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). She said the 2014 costs increased sharply and unexpectedly with the age adjustment of the pension obligations. Even though the OFO got a NOK 144 million subsidy from the culture budget in 2014, it will have to cut costs and dip into its own equity to cover the pension payments.
“We have an equity of more than NOK 21 million, but large estimates and long-term liabilities mean that our total financial situation is demanding,” said Røynesdal. “Our priority of course is to find good solutions for a sustainable pension system – as fast as possible.” She said the OFO must change its staff pension agreement, but the challenge is that changes can’t be made without the agreement of staff.
Low interest rates and high wage increases have driven the sharp increase in pension costs and premiums for dozens of Norwegian cultural institutions, including the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. The issue will be at the forefront for the Association of Norwegian Theatres and Orchestras (Norsk teater- og orkesterforening, NTO), the employer group for the main cultural institutions, when it begins wage negotiations this spring.
OFO staff representative and violinist Vegard Johnsen said musicians were concerned with maintaining a good agreement. “It is a complicated and demanding affair,” he told DN. “First and foremost it involves accounting rules which put major commitments in the financial statements which must be balanced in some way. That is money that we as a cultural institution don’t have. We therefore hope something political can happen, because this is a challenge which all state supported cultural institutions face.”