The labor agreement, which was to have expired on September 7 of this year, is now good until just before the beginning of the 2008-09 season. The only change to the existing terms is a small increase in weekly base pay next season from $1,800 to $1,830. (When the current contract was negotiated in 2004, the players accepted a two-year wage freeze, an increase in health insurance premiums and co-payments, and a reduction in their ranks by attrition from 99 to 92 salaried musicians.)
In a statement released yesterday, management and players alike acknowledged openly that the contract was extended to provide the orchestra extra time to stabilize its finances without the uncertainty of ongoing labor negotiations. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier this month that the CSO is facing a deficit of about $2 million, due mostly to a fall in payout from its endowment. Board members are now engaged in a capital campaign to increase the endowment, now worth $74 million (down from a high of $95 million before the stock market downturn earlier this decade), to over $100 million, according to the paper.
"The financial challenges the CSO faces are no secret and the continuing cooperation of the musicians is paramount to solving these challenges," said CSO board chairman Rick Reynolds. "This contract extension delays the formal contract negotiation process and thus allows the organization to focus on its financial health without compromising the artistic product."