Detroit Symphony musicians officially vote to end strike, accept steep pay cuts
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The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra voted on Friday to end their six-month strike, accepting steep pay cuts in order to return to work. The vote brings to an end a bitter and costly walkout that was one of the lengthiest in the classical-music world in recent years.
As part of their agreement, musicians agreed to pay cuts of almost 25%, said Greg Bowens, a representative for the musicians. Management had originally sought pay cuts estimated at around 30%. The new three-year contract, which was ratified Friday, is the result of marathon negotiations that took place last weekend.
Bowens said in a phone interview that after six months of striking, ‘feelings are still kind of raw,’ but he added that the orchestra’s musicians are ‘committed to doing a good job.’ Rehearsals resumed this week and there are free concerts scheduled for this weekend.
A spokeswoman for the orchestra said that the new contract runs through Aug. 31, 2014. As part of the contract, the orchestra has reduced the number of musicians to 85 from 96.
The contract calls for minimum salaries in year one to decline to $79,000 from $104,650. The minimum salary will increase to $80,900 in the second year and to $82,900 in the third year. The contract also includes an optional work agreement for community outreach programming, which was a main point of contention during the strike.
The value of the three-year contract is $36.3 million. The Detroit Free Press reports that the orchestra spent $42 million on musician salaries and benefits in the last three years. Karl Pituch, chair of the musicians negotiating committee, said in a statement that he is relieved that the strike is over, ‘but the problems which led to the strike, and those who were responsible for those problems, continue.’
Some of those problems include weak fundraising and ticket sales, said Joe Goldman, a violinist with the orchestra for the past 37 years, in a phone interview. ‘Those problems are what led to the strike. And there is still feeling among the musicians that all is not well,’ said Goldman.
-- David Ng
Top photo: Protesters picket in support of musicians of the Detroit Symphony earlier this year. Credit: Madalyn Ruggiero / Associated Press