The musicians, who have been playing without a contract since August 2003, boycotted two rehearsals on September 19. According to the union, four days of talks are scheduled over the next two weeks.
In a statement, the union said that the MSO ranks 34th in pay among North American orchestras, despite being a "one of the ten best symphony orchestras in the world." The union also pointed out that musicians had accepted a pay freeze for the 2002-03 season, freeing up the orchestra to pursue a replacement for music director Charles Dutoit and eventually to hire its first choice, Kent Nagano.
Management's current demands, the statement said, "jeopardize the orchestra's artistic quality."
Dutoit, who led the orchestra for nearly 25 years and raised its artistic profile through recordings and tours, left abruptly in the spring of 2002 after the union issued an open letter complaining that he was autocratic and had harassed musicians.