Musicians ratify new, three-year contract with DSO

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

In another sign of labor peace at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, musicians ratified a new three-year contract with management Monday night, eight months before the current one expires.

Musicians will get a 4-percent raise by 2020, the last year of the contract, lifting base pay from $91,259 to $96,096. Players also will get a new a stipend to tide them over in the 10 unpaid, nonperformance weeks, so they don’t have to file for unemployment insurance.

In exchange, musicians agreed to more flexible work rules, boosted the number of performance weeks from 36 to 38, and will shoulder more of any increases in health-insurance premiums. The number of musicians will stay at 87, well beneath the 96 before 2011.

“This is extremely good news for the orchestra and the community,” said Anne Parsons, DSO president and CEO, “that we continue to go down this path of increased stability.”

Karl Pituch, DSO principal horn and head of the musicians’ negotiating committee, agreed.

“We’re all very pleased and happy with the (salary) growth in the new contract,” he said.

Indeed, since the end of the orchestra’s bitter, six-month strike in 2010-2011, it’s pretty much been nothing but good news.

That includes four years of balanced budgets, a new contract that will keep Leonard Slatkin through 2019-2020, much-greater community outreach, and the announcement of the DSO’s first international tour in 16 years this summer, to China and Japan.

Present harmony would come as a surprise to anyone who watched the strike six years ago, but Pituch credits leadership at the top of the board of directors.

“Our last chairman, Phillip Fisher, really set the mood and tone,” he said. “Phillip wanted everybody to work together, and now we’ve really got mutual respect. And that’s been great.”

The current DSO chairman is Mark A. Davidoff, who was elected in late 2015.

All in all, it seems to be a welcome year of relative peace at some of the nation’s leading orchestras.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra all suffered strikes last fall, but in each case have since settled and signed new contracts.

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy