There was little drama, at least in public, at the Philharmonic as the contract expired in mid September and as talks continued under a contract extension. The calm in New York was in stark contrast to contentious talks at the Philadelphia Orchestra, where musicians nearly went on strike before agreeing to extend negotiations through October 20. (Musicians at the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony are also playing under contract extensions; both expire on October 31.)
"The tone of our negotiations was positive and direct," said Zarin Mehta, president and executive director of the orchestra, said in a statement. "There are many challenges facing our industry, and the constructive approach taken by the musicians enabled us to begin to address these challenges, and our future, in a cooperative and forward-looking manner."
Musicians agreed that the talks were marked by "professionalism" on the part of orchestra officials, and expressed satisfaction with the outcome. "We have reached a fair and reasonable settlement with the management of the New York Philharmonic," said violist Dawn Hannay, who negotiated for the musicians.
The new contract calls for a salary increase every six months over the life of the contract. The two sides put off a decision on a boost to pension benefits, but agreed that if the annual pension does not rise to $60,000 from its current level of $53,000 by the third year of the contract, salaries will rise more quickly in that year. Musicians agreed to accept higher co-payments and deductibles for their health insurance, but received increases in life, disability, and instrument insurance.
The agreement comes as the orchestra prepares to leave for a two-week Asian tour, beginning with a concert in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, October 14.