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Symphony musicians reject contract offer

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Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians and librarians unanimously rejected a new contract offer, suggesting they might not easily accept the same deep pay cuts seen at major orchestras around the country.

The musicians' union, Local 3 of the American Federation of Musicians, issued a brief statement Friday night, saying players and librarians had rejected management's final offer by a vote of 76 to zero. The 87-member orchestra has several vacancies, and other players were not in town for the vote. The union also represents two librarians.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, the union would offer no clue about what provisions of the offer prompted the rejection. “Typically if we take something to [the musicians], it's something we negotiators will endorse,” bargaining committee chairman Mike Borschel said. “This one we could not, so here we are.”

The last three-year contract, which expired Sept. 6, reflected a 2 percent or 3 percent increase in base pay, Borschel said. The final six months of the contract called for annualized base pay of $80,080.

Several major orchestras, including Minnesota, Philadelphia and Atlanta, have accepted or volunteered pay cuts in the past year. The Philadelphia Orchestra, where base pay is $124,000, volunteered to extend its current contract for a year and defer a 4.8-percent raise, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in May. The agreement saved the orchestra $4 million.

Borschel said he believes the pay in Indianapolis would rank near the bottom among 52-week orchestras, even when compared to those that have cut salaries.

The only publicized cuts at the ISO were made in February from the administrative staff. The symphony cut eight employees, or 10 percent of non-musician employees, to shave $600,000 from the $29.5 million budget.

The ISO ended its 2008 fiscal year in the red and later saw its endowment drop to about $80 million. It has not yet reported the results of its most recent fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31.
 

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