by Michael Gill
Everybody looked tired in the foyer at Severance Hall Tuesday as musicians and management of the Cleveland Orchestra held a joint press conference to announce an end to the musicians strike, and at least the key details of a new contract.
Executive director Gary Hanson looked like he’d been running on just a couple of hours’ sleep, which he had: negotiations had run all night, concluding at 6 a.m. As he and the musicians’ negotiating committee chair, oboist Jeffrey Rathbun, talked about the deal at the podium, musicians stood by, capturing the whole thing on digital video with their cell phones and Blackberries.
The deal involved pieces of the offers that musicians and management had made earlier in the dispute. Instead of the one-year wage freeze proposed by the musicians, or the 5 percent pay cut proposed by the management, they settled on a two-year wage freeze, followed by semi-annual pay increases of 3 percent and 2 percent the third year. Musicians will donate up to 10 “services” (either rehearsals or performances), which helps the orchestra save money. In addition, the musicians will increase their health insurance premium contributions beginning in July, 2011.
Rathbun indicated there were still details of the contract to be worked out, and still “work to do” in the long term, but the deal—approved by a ballot vote by the musicians just before the conference—allows the season to proceed. Rathbun expressed gratitude that the deal did not “further erode” the orchestra’s standing among top orchestras in terms of pay, and therefore ability to attract top players. In an apparent nod to the overall financial outlook, however, he referred to the negotiations as “a wake-up call.”
The orchestra had already postponed its concert in Indiana, though music director Franz Welser-Most was to keep an engagement conducting the Indiana University Philharmonic Tuesday, and senior staff will keep an arts management seminar commitment Thursday. The orchestra’s residency in Miami will go on starting Friday, as scheduled.