ISO musicians take big pay cut to end contract dispute

Management and musicians at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have reached a labor-contract agreement, effectively ending a month-long lockout, the musicians' union announced Tuesday morning.

The performers said they returned to work Tuesday after ratifying two contracts late Monday, including a bridge agreement that lasts through Feb. 3, 2013, and the major financial terms of a five-year contract that spans Feb. 4, 2013, through Sept. 3, 2017.

The musicians were locked out Sept. 8, resulting in the cancellation of the first five shows of the season.

The musicians' union said the new five-year contract will cut the pay for musicians by 32 percent in the first year and reduce the year-round performance schedule by eight weeks during the first two years.

Orchestra management said the cuts are needed because of shortfalls in private donations and other revenue. The deal cuts base pay for the musicians from $78,000 to $53,000 in the first year. Pay rises to $70,000 in the final contract year, a 10-percent pay cut from the current salary.

The musicians are making $11.5 million in concessions over the length of the contract, the sides said.

Under terms of the new contract:

— The ISO's annual performance season will be shortened from about 45 weeks to a range of 38 to 42 weeks;

— Musicians' pensions and benefits will be continued;

— Positions will be cut from 87 under the previous contract to 74. The orchestra currently has 72 contract employees.

The agreement does not include an early-termination clause, language that led to a standstill earlier this month.

But the two sides might have to return to the negotiating table in February if the ISO misses a fundraising goal, said board Chairman John Thornburgh.

The parties negotiated the contract with the understanding that the ISO would raise $5 million during the bridge contract. Thornburgh said he was confident the group would reach its goal. The organization already has pulled in some money, he said, and plans to announce a significant contribution within the next few weeks.

The increased donations would bolster the ISO’s endowment, which executives have said has been giving out money at an unsustainable rate.


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