Musicians, symphony’s executive panel OK pact |

Musicians, symphony’s executive panel OK pact

Mark Kanny

Musicians and the executive committee of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra approved a new three-year contract Tuesday, retroactive to Sept. 1.

The provisions will provide the cornerstone of what management needs in its plan to erase this fiscal year’s projected $3 million budget deficit, said president and chief executive offier Tom Todd.

But Todd would not discuss how much of the deficit would be eliminated through the salary cuts and increased revenue from extra concerts called for in the new contract.

The musicians take a 7.8 percent across-the-board pay cut and perform extra work for the first two years of the agreement. Base pay will drop from $90,220 to $83,182. Many musicians earn more for factors including seniority and holding principal chairs.

For each of the first two years, paid vacation will be cut by two weeks. Musicians will get eight rather than the 10 weeks per year that is standard among top American orchestras. Also, each year the symphony will perform a Pension Fund Concert and four other extra services — usually rehearsals or concerts.

Base pay will rise in the third year to 95 percent of the average base pay at that time of four top American orchestras — Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Cleveland. This formula, if applied to top orchestras’ base pay this season, would create a more than $3,000 increase rather than an $7,000 cut.

Musicians spokesman Zach Smith said, “The negotiations were difficult because of the seriousness of the issues facing the orchestra. What we had going for us that there was a level of trust about the goals of the board and their commitment to the same excellence.”

Todd said Tuesday that management’s initial proposal was for a two-year contract. “The musicians were able to convince us,” he said, “that a third year along the terms that were agreed upon was absolutely essential if we were to meet our two requirements for this contract: One, to be able to deal in the near term with our significant financial problems, and, two, maintain a world-class orchestra.”

Todd says he believes the symphony’s finances will dramatically improve over the next two seasons. “We can carry out our recovery plan if all of the other constituencies in our community respond to the significant commitment and investment in the future which our orchestra has been willing to make.”

Another change: Final decisions on hiring and tenure of orchestra members will be made by committees of musicians on which the music director will have one vote, beginning with the 2004-05 season. The final decision resides solely with the music director through the end of this season.

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