With Strike Approaching, Philadelphia Orchestra Extends Contract Again

Classic Arts News   With Strike Approaching, Philadelphia Orchestra Extends Contract Again
The management and musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra agreed to extend negotiations by 10 days yesterday, hours before the musicians' contract was due to expire.

The orchestra's only comment was the following statement, posted on its web site:

"Philadelphia Orchestra musicians and management have agreed to extend contract negotiations to October 31, 2004. As part of the agreement, both sides have agreed to continue the media blackout."

According to reports in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the extension came after Philadelphia mayor John Street intervened, calling both sides to his office and convincing them to keep talking.

"Any stoppage, no matter how temporary, will not only harm the Center City businesses that rely on orchestra patrons, but could also damage the institutions," the mayor said in a statement. "As a city, we cannot allow that to happen."

Street will continue to assist in the negotiations. City commerce director Stephanie W. Naidoff is meeting with management and musicians this morning, and Street will join the talks soon, according to the Inquirer. The mayor has also volunteered to appoint an independent fact finder "to help establish a middle ground between the two sides."

This is the second contract extension in the last month. On September 19, on the eve of the orchestra's season-opening concert and a day after musicians voted to authorize a strike, the two sides agreed to a 30-day reprieve and to a media blackout, ending weeks of attacks in the press. That agreement seemed to fray in recent days, with musicians telling the Inquirer that management wasn't budging from its insistence on nearly $2 million in annual cuts in pay or personnel.

According to the Inquirer, the orchestra's last strike, in 1996, ended only after the intervention of then-mayor Ed Rendell.

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