Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Ratify New Three-Year Contract

Classic Arts News   Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Ratify New Three-Year Contract
The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra voted last night to accept a new three-year contract which includes annual salary increases averaging 4.6%, the loosening of some work and scheduling rules and more flexibility in distributing concert recordings electronically.

The vote came just hours after the previous contract expired and just hours before today's first rehearsal of the season. The terms of the agreement, which was approved 75 to 8 with two abstentions, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, were settled by negotiations which ended Friday evening (September 14). The effective dates of the contract are September 17, 2007, through September 19, 2010.

The minimum annual salary for a Philadelphia Orchestra musician under the new agreement is now $119,600, a 4.6% increase, with a 4.4% raise to $124,800 in 2008-09 and a phased increase through the 2009-10 season that averages to 4.8%, for an annual salary level of $131,040 by the end of the contract term. The full complement of the orchestra is now 105 musicians and two librarians, up one from last year but still down two from the 2001-04 contract.

In addition, Philadelphia Orchestra management has agreed to improvements in disability insurance benefits and instrument insurance. Health insurance coverage and pension contribution levels remain unchanged from the previous contract.

In exchange for these improvements, the Philadelphia musicians have agreed to more flexibility in scheduling and electronic rights.

The rights provisions of the contract track those of the nationwide master agreement negotiated with the American Federation of Musicians last year. The new contract allows the Philadelphia Orchestra to continue with such projects as its series of CDs issued on the Ondine label, its online music store selling digital downloads of concert recordings, and its "Global Concert Series" of performances transmitted live, in the U.S. and overseas, via Internet2.

A key concession by the musicians' union was the elimination of the "Complement Plus One" rule. Under that provision, an additional freelance player for each string section had to be engaged for every program as a substitute in case a salaried section member had a last-minute illness or emergency; the extra musicians were paid for all rehearsals and performances whether or not they played.

Beginning next season, the Philadelphia Orchestra will be able to schedule more performances outside the traditional Thursday-Friday-Saturday subscription norm. The new contract allows for up to four more of the popular Sunday afternoon concerts, for a total of 10 per season. The number of "Access Concerts," short programs with discussion aimed at newcomers to classical music, will increase from four to eight per season. And the Orchestra now has the right to schedule four "runout" concerts — out-of-town engagements close enough to Philadelphia not to require an overnight stay — in addition to the Orchestra's existing series at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

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