Detroit Symphony musicians ratify new contract - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Detroit Symphony musicians ratify new contract


DETROIT (AP) -- A contentious six-month strike effectively ended Friday after musicians who agreed to pay cuts ratified a new contract with Detroit Symphony Orchestra management.

The American Federation of Musicians finished counting votes early in the afternoon on the tentative deal reached after marathon weekend negotiations.

"We are relieved that this struggle is over and we can get back on stage performing the world's greatest music," musicians negotiating committee chair Karl Pituch said in a statement. "But the problems which led to the strike and those who were responsible for those problems continue."

An orchestra musician who spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement's terms haven't been released publicly told The Associated Press this week the minimum starting salary in the first year of the three-year contract will be $71,080 -- $33,000 less than before. The minimum salary rises in subsequent years, ending at $74,600.

The salary would be increased through an electronic media guarantee, money musicians will receive through radio and television broadcasts. That would put the minimum starting salary at about $79,000, according to the musician who spoke to the AP.

An optional educational and community outreach component to the agreement also could bring each musician an extra $3,450 per year for additional work beyond the contract requirements, the musician said.

"We paid a heavy price in terms of the loss of income over the last six months and an almost 25 percent reduction in our salaries," American Federation of Musicians Local 5 President Gordon Stump said Friday in a release. "But we were able to fend off management proposals which would have significantly changed the very nature of the job, and would have given the managements of other orchestras the impetus to try and gain those conditions in their orchestras."

The dispute was over how deep a pay cut the musicians would have to take to help the struggling symphony balance its budget.

Management had implemented a 33 percent base pay cut in September, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. Musicians had offered to take a 22 percent reduction in the first year, to $82,000, but proposed significant increases by the final year.

Management put the cuts in place after declaring an impasse with the union Sept. 1. Musicians walked off the job Oct. 4.

Terms of the new three-year contract are effective from April 4, 2011 through August 31, 2014, the DSO said Friday afternoon in a release.

The financial package will help stabilize the orchestra's economic viability, in addition to calling for the DSO to perform 36 weeks of classical, pops, and young person's concerts each year, according to symphony management.

Musicians began rehearsing Thursday in preparation for free weekend concerts.


Associated Press Writer Jeff Karoub contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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