Dodging the labor strife that has descended on other recent negotiations over orchestral musicians' pay, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the union representing its musicians announced Monday that they've reached a new four-year contract that lifts wages by just less than 1% a year.
At the end of four years, the minimum yearly wage for the Phil's more than 100 musicians will be $154,336, up 3.8% from the $148,700 minimum in the contract that expired Sunday. The minimum wage scale had risen 17% over the previous four-year contract. Certain orchestra members earn more than double the contractual minimum.
The agreement, which runs through mid-September 2017, means the 2013-14 season can begin unperturbed with a planned gala concert on Sept. 30 featuring Yo-Yo Ma and more fall concerts celebrating the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall (the hall opened Oct. 23, 2003).
In a joint news release announcing the contract, management and the union said they were pleased with the outcome.
"Our members enthusiastically ratified the contract," said Vincent Trombetta, president of Professional Musicians, Local 47, the Los Angeles local of the American Federation of Musicians that represents the Phil's musicians. "The union is encouraged that the parties were able to join together and overcome the obstacles present in today's difficult bargaining and economic environment."
The smooth transition to the new contract, which went into effect immediately, contrasts with work stoppages over wages and working conditions that has characterized a number of other recent negotiations between top U.S. orchestras and their players.
In March, the San Francisco Symphony's musicians went on strike for 18 days, leading to the cancellation of an East Coast tour and of concerts in its home concert hall. Management initially had proposed a 2% pay increase over three years; it sweetened that to 4.5% over 26 months to end the strike -- which will result in a minimum salary of about $148,000 by mid-2015.
Chicago Symphony musicians went on strike for two days last September before signing a new agreement.
"The collegial spirit in which issues were addressed and a new contract reached are emblematic of the collective commitment of the musicians, Gustavo Dudamel [the Phil's music director] and the board and staff of the LA Phil to maintain the very finest musical organization," Deborah Borda, the orchestra's president, said in the announcement.
The announcement said the contract also includes a housing allowance for musicians, "new contributions" to their retirement plan, which resembles a 401(k), and "restructured healthcare plan offerings" aimed at "managing expenses."
Where many orchestras have struggled since the 2008-09 recession, the Phil has prospered, registering a cumulative budget surplus of $28.8 million in the three post-recession fiscal years for which its public tax returns are available. The Phil has declined to provide figures for the 2012-13 fiscal year that will end Sept. 30.