Montreal Symphony Musicians and Board Ratify Contract, Ending Strike

Classic Arts News   Montreal Symphony Musicians and Board Ratify Contract, Ending Strike
The board and the musicians of the Montreal Symphony both voted yesterday to accept a new seven-year contract, ending the strike that began on May 9 and led to the cancellation of 32 concerts.

The agreement is retroactive to 2003, when the previous contract expired, and expires in 2010. It includes a salary increase of 17 percent over the life of the contract; musicians' base salary rises from C$61,000 to C$72,000.

Musicians agreed to more flexible work rules regarding rehearsals, performances, and tours, a concession long sought by management. Management agreed to give musicians greater say in the selection of a new music director and in the planning of tours.

Musicians will be paid for studio recording sessions if their total work week exceeds 20 hours, and their salaries will increase by 6 percent during weeks when live recordings are made.

"Both parties redoubled their efforts over the course of the last few months to arrive at this settlement," said MSO chairman Lucien Bouchard at a press conference today. "We are confident that the agreement we have reached will provide the OSM with a labor relations framework that takes into account the new realities of the world of music, enabling it to flourish both at home and abroad, while respecting the demands made upon the musicians in the practice of their art."

The two sides have negotiated intermittently since January 2004, sometimes exchanging bitter messages through the media. Management insisted that the orchestra, which is facing a deficit, needed to cut costs and increase revenues to survive; musicians said that management's proposed work rules violated Canadian labor laws and that its salary offer was an "insult."

In mid-September, shortly after the MSO canceled the first in a series of fall concerts to fall victim to the strike, the two sides returned to the negotiating table, maintaining a media silence at the behest of a mediator. They reached a tentative agreement on October 16.

Performances will resume on October 23, when music director designate Kent Nagano leads a program of Ravel and Prokofiev. Concerts originally scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night were canceled before the settlement was reached.

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