The show will go on: Philadelphia Orchestra and musicians reach agreement

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

The Philadelphia Orchestra had to cancel all its concerts over the weekend when the musicians went on strike Friday evening just before the annual season opening gala.

Two days later, the strike ended with a new labor agreement.

On Friday afternoon, the orchestra was offering 2 percent pay increased every year for three years, and the musicians rejected it.

In the end, the musicians say they accepted something very close — 2.5 percent increases. John Koen, the musicians committee chair and a cellist in the orchestra, says he is still not happy with the raises, but ultimately accepted the agreement because of what was removed.

“We got rid of the chairman’s ‘nuclear option,'” said Koen. “He could terminate the contract if there was a deficit in the third year. It was not something we wanted to contemplate. Getting rid of that proposal allowed us to reach an agreement.”

Koen also said he wanted to keep the strike as short as possible, so as not to harm the institution.

Much of the discord between musicians and the orchestra stems from the institution’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2011-2012.  During that time the musicians accepted pay cuts and freezes for the overall health of the organization. They would like their salaries brought on par with other major American orchestras.

The orchestra is still trying to fill a budget gap and woo donor money, calling for “financial discipline.” Management was not available for comment Sunday night, but said in a statement it is pleased with the agreement and looks forward to concerts resuming Thursday, with conductor Simon Rattle.

The new agreement will bring the musicians base salary to just more than $135,000 — significantly less than similar orchestras around the country. Many musicians have negotiated higher individual salaries due to their status in the classical field.

Orchestra management said this weekend’s canceled concerts will not be rescheduled.

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