On Oct. 8, a new three-year agreement was reached between the New York Philharmonic and Local 802. The musicians overwhelmingly ratified the contract. The agreement covers the period from Sept. 21, 2004 through Sept. 20, 2007.
The musicians had voted to extend the contract from its Sept. 20 expiration date to Oct. 8, just days before the orchestra was scheduled to embark on its tour of Korea and Japan.
Talks for a new agreement began in early March. Although somewhat slow-paced at first, momentum picked up as the extended contract deadline approached. The musicians and the Local 802 Executive Board had voted for strike authorization one week prior to deadline.
As in the past, other major symphony orchestras have been in simultaneous negotiations — namely the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Unlike the Philharmonic, the managements of each of these orchestras have made drastically concessionary proposals. Each of these orchestras had agreed to extend their contracts until the end of October. As Allegro went to press, a settlement had not yet been reached in any of them.
The new contract at the Philharmonic calls for increases in the minimum weekly salary every six months, beginning March 21, 2005, when it will increase by $20 to $2,000. There will be two increases of $40/week in the 2005-06 season, and two increases of $50/week in the 2006-07 season. The final increase of the contract will bring the minimum weekly salary up to $2,180, more than a 10 percent increase over three years.
In addition to wage improvements, the issue of increased pension benefits was of paramount importance to the musicians. The current pension benefit will initially remain at $53,000 annually, and will be renegotiated in the second year of the contract. If a $60,000 benefit is not achieved for the third year of the contract, the minimum weekly salary will increase by $150/week.
Increased benefits also include gains in life, disability and instrument insurance.
The orchestra’s health insurance plan will include increases in co-payments and deductibles effective Jan. 1, 2005.
The New York Philharmonic contributes a set amount each contract year — approximately $1.8 million in the contract’s first year to over $2 million in the third year — to the fund for health and dental insurance. In the event the cost of health benefits is above those amounts, management will pay the difference in year one of the agreement.
In years two and three, if the cost of health benefits exceeds those amounts, the musicians will share in the difference between the cost of benefits and the amount allocated, up to a cap of $20/week, down from a $40/week cap in the prior agreement.
In the event the cost of health benefits are less than the annual amount that management is required to contribute, the difference shall be banked and applied against subsequent years’ cost increases.
The musicians agreed to perform one additional concert, without pay, for fundraising purposes, once during the term of the contract.
The contract also features changes in working conditions that address scheduling efficiency concerns of management while addressing workload concerns of the musicians.
Improvements to the touring provisions of the agreement were also achieved.
“Given the current economic climate, the musicians of the New York Philharmonic have emerged from these negotiations with a progressive agreement that continues to recognize their stature as one of the premiere orchestras of the world,” stated Local 802 President David Lennon. “The orchestra negotiating committee should be applauded for their tireless and valiant efforts on behalf of their colleagues.”
The Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose agreement expires at the end of next season, has been the “leader of the pack” in terms of wages and pension.
The new agreement with the New York Philharmonic puts the minimum weekly wage in the last year of this agreement $30 ahead of Boston at the end of their contract next season.
Hopefully, this deal will help solidify a fair settlement in other critical orchestra negotiations nationwide.
Dawn Hannay (chair), Newton Mansfield, James Markey, Ken Mirkin and Fiona Simon comprised the orchestra negotiating committee. They were assisted by legal counsel Bruce Simon, 802 President David Lennon and former president Bill Moriarity.