The orchestra and its union issued a joint statement yesterday, hours before the current contract expired, announcing that the season would begin as planned on Tuesday while talks continued with the help of a federal mediator.
"Given the complex nature of the issues," the statement read, "we will not be able to conclude an agreement by the 12:01 a.m. deadline. Recognizing our mutual desire to continue to present concerts to our loyal audiences, we have therefore agreed to extend negotiations for a period of thirty days, until October 20, 2004."
Earlier, a strike had seemed imminent. According to the New York Times, musicians walked out of talks on Friday night, September 17. after rejecting a management offer. On Saturday, musicians voted to authorize a strike.
The extension was a rare step forward in a contentious negotiation. With the orchestra facing a deficit, management has insisted that the union must accept $1.8 million in cuts per year; musicians say cuts to salary or personnel would damage the quality of the music.
Both sides have aired their grievances publicly, with orchestra chairman Richard L. Smoot calling the current contract a "roadmap to extinction." However, management and musicians have now agreed to a media blackout, according to the statement.
Contracts are also set to expire at three other major orchestras, but musicians at all three‹the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony‹have agreed to perform as talks continue.