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Chicago Symphony ends its longest strike with a change of ownership



The longest strike in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 128-year history ended on Saturday when the orchestra's musician and board agreed to a new contract that will turn players from their defined-benefit pension into a defined-contribution plan 401 (k).

The planned change to the pension plan was the biggest sticking point in a nearly seven-week music strike. The deal was arranged with the help of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who summoned the players' association and orchestra management to his office on Friday to try and break the stalemate, which guaranteed players a certain amount of retirement, had become too expensive. The players disagreed that the proposed alternative, whereby the orchestra would put a certain amount of money into individual retirement accounts, would shift the investment risk to the musicians.

Both sides came to a compromise. The orchestra management explained that if the current players switch to the new defined contribution plan and invest their retirement accounts wisely, the orchestra guarantees that their retirement benefits will be the same as those earned under the old plan.

This guarantee is not granted to new players: those hired after July 1, 2020 will immediately switch to the new plan, where 7.5 percent of their basic salary is set on retirement accounts.

19659002] The other big problem was the wages. The new contract includes increases in each of the five contract years – from 2, 2, 2.5, 3.25 and 3.5 percent – that will bring the base salary to $ 181,272 last year, the management said.

The strike attracted the attention of orchestras across the country who have come under pressure to cut costs, especially in contract negotiations with their unions. While retirement pensions have become rarer in the private sector, they remain the norm among the nation's leading orchestras. Musicians from all over the country watched closely to see if the Chicago players would succeed in protecting theirs.

The Musicians Union said in a statement that the new deal "maintains minimum guaranteed retirement benefits for current musicians and obliges the parties to study retirement options for new hires." In the past, unions were reluctant to accept contract amendments accept that would protect current workers at the expense of new employees, as they fear that these offers could create two layers of workers in the same orchestra. [19659002] The strike was also notable for the unusual involvement of the revered music director of the orchestra, Riccardo Muti, as the conductors usually avoid participating in labor disputes, but before the strike began, Mr. Muti wrote to the board and management of the orchestra and said, "I'm with the musicians," and he later appeared with the players in the picket line.

Curr Mr. Muti publicly insisted that he "The management and the board just wanted to" listen to the needs of musicians who are one of the greatest orchestras in the world, "the symbolism was hard to miss. He is scheduled to return to the podium this week, increasing pressure on both sides to reach an agreement.

Steve Lester, a bassist in the orchestra who was the chairman of the negotiating committee of the musicians, said in a statement "After about a year of negotiations, we are victorious in our efforts to protect and sustain our secure retirement and with our annual salaries get lost."

The chairman of the orchestra, Helen Zell, said in a statement that a new agreement "ensures that the musicians receive the outstanding compensation they deserve," while at the same time preserving the orchestra's long-term financial sustainability through the transition of the orchestra Pension plan is ensured.


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