Detroit Symphony Orchestra agrees to pay cuts, ending strike

April 8, 2011

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have voted to ratify a new contract, ending a bitter six-month labor dispute that threatened the survival of the 118-year-old institution, the union said Friday.

The new contract cuts pay by an average of 25 percent, the union said. Under the previous contract, the roughly 80 musicians in the orchestra were paid an average of about $105,000 a year.

Orchestra management initially sought a 30 percent cut in pay as well as more flexibility in scheduling the musicians’ outside appearances at community events and schools.

Negotiators for the two sides reached an agreement on the contract and the pay concessions Sunday after a marathon round of bargaining over the weekend.

The contentious strike, which began in early October, caused the symphony to cancel a run of scheduled winter and spring concerts.

Final talks centered on a proposed three-year, $36 million contract, orchestra management had said.

The financial problems for the orchestra, which has long been considered one of the top-10 in the United States, reflect the deep and long-running economic problems for Detroit.

Detroit symphony management has said it expected to run deficits in the millions of dollars in the coming years, even after a new contract was settled on its terms.

Representatives for the musicians said the new contract leaves larger questions about the institution’s future unsettled.

“In the next few years, we must try to rectify the problems which if not resolved will have us back in this mess again,” said Gordon Stump, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 5, representing the musicians, in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the symphony was not immediately available for comment.

— Reuters

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