Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra reaches an agreement with management | Blogh

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra reaches an agreement with management

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:42 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra reaches an agreement with management
CP photo by Stephen Caruso
PSO musicians and allies striking in September
After a 54-day work stoppage, Heinz Hall will be filled with music again.

The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the symphony’s management reached an agreement today to end the strike by signing a new five-year contract.

“The management and Board of Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony are unwavering in a collective commitment to our orchestra's artistic mission and to its excellence — past, present, and future,” Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the symphony, said in a press release. “We asked the musicians to be a partner in the solution to the exceptionally difficult financial position we are working to correct and we are grateful for their sacrifice. They have, indeed, come together with us in a powerful way to help position the Pittsburgh Symphony’s future.”

The new contract includes a 10.5 percent decrease in musician wages in the first year, but one that will only effectively be a 7.5 percent cut due to “a generous contribution from an anonymous donor.”

After a salary freeze in the second year, wages will slowly climb back to their original level by the fifth year of the contract.

Also, the musician's benefits plan will be transferred to a defined contributions plan, while three open positions within the 99 piece orchestra will remain unfilled for the duration of the contract.

The strike, the symphony’s first since 1975 and second ever, began on Sept. 30 after months-old negotiations between the two sides in spite of federal arbitration.

The musicians, members of American Federation of Musicians Local 60-471, called for the strike after management refused to back down on demands for a 15 percent pay cut to the musicians, as well as reduced benefits and freezing three open positions in the orchestra, up to management's discretion.

Management called for the cuts to improve the symphony’s financial situation, including $11 million in debt and a $1.5 million budget deficit.

Musicians countered that the symphony’s financial situation was not as bad as management claimed, and worried the cuts would make the symphony less attractive and hurt its competitiveness for top performers.

While still upset at the scope of the contracts cuts, Micah Howard, chair of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Committee, is optimistic for the future of the orchestra following the agreement.

“These were painful and substantial concessions,” Howard said in a release. “But we agreed to work with management to face our financial challenges head-on. Both parties came together in the spirit of true compromise, to ensure that we can resume performing at Heinz Hall.”

Negotiations restarted in early November as both sides agreed to an independent audit of the symphony's finances.

The strike led to the cancellation of all symphony concerts up to Dec. 5, as well as shows by touring entertainers such as rock star Elvis Costello and comedians Brian Regan and Lewis Black who stood in solidarity with the striking musicians.

In honor of the new contract, the PSO will host two free concerts, on Dec. 2 and 4 at Heinz Hall.

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