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Monday, January 30, 2012

New York Philharmonic Avoids Strike

Orchestra, union sign two-year labor deal.
Filling the seats: the New York Philharmonic poses in Avery Fisher Hall.
Photo by Chris Lee © 2011 The New York Philharmonic.
Well, that was close.

The New York Philharmonic narrowly avoided a strike this weekend.

The orchestra, which embarks today on a three-week European tour, almost got on the picket line instead of the airplane. The musicians, who have played all of this season's concerts without a new contract in place, were prepared to strike if a deal didn't get done.

In late-breaking news on Saturday night, the orchestra told Daniel J. Wakin of the New York Times that they had signed a new two-year contract, maintaining their health benefits and giving players a small salary increase in 2014. There is also a hard cap on pension benefits.

Mr. Wakin first reported the news on Twitter, and then in a Times article compiled by himself and Adam W. Kepler. That article is the source of this story.

Mr. Wakin's article commented that this deal was "short, by industry standards."

The orchestra and its musicians had been at loggerheads over the company's pension fund. According to Mr. Wakin's report, management had taken its proposals for "drastic" health insurance cuts and "radical" benefit reductions off the table. Both sides agreed to reexamine benefit issues in 2014.

In signing a deal, orchestra and musicians have avoided the kind of ugly situation that nearly scuppered the 2012 seasons of the New York City Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The City Opera players settled for an extension of their health care benefits with a severe cut in their performance fees. In Philadelphia, that venerable orchestra filed for bankruptcy before hammering out a deal with their musicians.

Tino Gagliardi, a representative for Musicians Local 802, told the Times that management backed down from a scheme to change players' pensions from "defined benefit" to one where the funds would be supported by contributions from the players' paychecks.

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