Pacific Symphony and Musicians’ Union Find Harmony in New Contract

The Pacific Symphony avoided a silent orchestra of striking musicians by reaching an agreement with the union representing them. Hyped as a “landmark contract” by the Symphony’s Board of Directors, the terms include a 10.4 percent wage increase over five years. Other key parts include new service guarantees for musicians, more performance opportunities and a more stable income.

Musicians performed without a contract since the expiration of the previous one on August 31, 2016, but reached an understanding with the Symphony three months later. At the time, they complained about dwindling rehearsals, lack of health insurance benefits and low pay that left some with a take home salary around $20,000 per year. With a new contract ratified by the Orange County Musicians Association Local 7 of the American Federation of Musicians this week, both sides are more conciliatory in tone.

“It was gratifying to work with these very committed and creative artists in the spirit of problem solving,” Symphony President John Forsyte said in a press statement. “While the talks were, at times, challenging, I appreciated the thoughtful give-and-take of the musician representatives and the union.” The Symphony deems the collective bargaining agreement as a balance between investing in artistic excellence and maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The Pacific Symphony, which has spent the past decade at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, reports a 2016-2017 budget of $20.4 million. They state that $11.2 million must be raised in addition to ticket revenues in order to balance it. The new agreement, effective through August 31, 2021, follows a 2013 agreement that traded a one-year pay freeze for a combined five percent raise over two seasons.

“Pacific Symphony musicians are pleased that our orchestra is taking such a significant step forward, and we are grateful to the Symphony leadership and Board of Directors for their willingness to invest in our future,” Adam Neeley, violist and orchestra committee chairperson, stated in a press release. “This new deal will ensure that the high level of artistic expression our audiences enjoy will not only continue, but reach new heights.”

Now that’s music to everyone’s ears!

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