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Pasadena Symphony musicians avert a strike with new five-year contract

Pasadena Symphony musicians avert a strike with new five-year contract
David Lockington leads the the Pasadena Symphony in April. A new contract calls for a 14.5% increase in the minimum wage scale over five years. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

More than a month after members of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops voted to authorize a strike for higher pay, a new five-year labor contract agreement has been reached, the Pasadena Symphony Assn. and American Federation of Musicians Local 47 will announce Friday.

The retroactive agreement, which starts from the 2016-17 season, includes annual increases to the musicians' minimum wage scale totaling 14.5% over five years.

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A new artistic advisory committee has been established with the goal of coordinating discussions between musicians and management.

"It's been a thoughtful process which reflects our shared commitment to the future of this great orchestra and its unique role in the region," symphony chief executive Lora Unger said in an email to The Times.

She added: "This agreement sets the stage for us to launch a number of strategic growth initiatives within a fiscally responsible framework."

The musicians' raises are front-loaded, with the highest increase of 5% coming at the beginning of the five-year period; the lowest raise, 1%, comes in the last year. The front-loaded model was crucial to the agreement since the union did not accept an earlier management offer that also totaled more than 14% over five contract years.

Prior to the new agreement, the part-time musicians made an average of $8,697 per year, the symphony said. In the first year of the new contract, that number will rise to $9,132. By the last year of the contract, the average will rise to $10,029, Unger said. The annual concert season includes 13 concert dates.

Before the agreement was reached, the union contended that the average musician pay was less than $4,000 per year. Local 47 President John Acosta said the discrepancy between pay averages was based on how the two sides calculated their figures, but regardless he was happy with the result.

"We believe it's a fair agreement, one that we're proud of and the musicians are proud of, and we look forward to working with the association under the agreement toward the common goal of putting on some great music," he said.

Marissa Benedict, chair of the Pasadena Symphony Assn. orchestra committee, echoed those sentiments.

"We remain optimistic that we will continue to work harmoniously together, now and in the future to allow our shared vision to come into fruition," she wrote in an email to The Times. "Because we are now united, we are stronger, allowing us to make better music and better relationships."

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