Chicago Symphony Ends Its Longest Strike With Pension Change

The longest strike within the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 128-year historical past ended Saturday, when the orchestra’s musicians and board agreed to a brand new contract that may shift the gamers from their defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution plan, just like a 401(ok).

The proposed change to the pension plan was the main sticking level in a musicians’ strike that lasted practically seven weeks. The deal was brokered with the assistance of Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who had referred to as the gamers’ union and the orchestra’s administration to his workplace on Friday to attempt to break the stalemate.

The orchestra’s administration had mentioned that the prevailing pension plan, which assured the gamers a set quantity in retirement, had grown too pricey. The gamers countered that the proposed various, during which the orchestra would put a set amount of cash into particular person retirement accounts, would shift funding threat to the musicians.

The two sides got here up with a compromise. The orchestra’s administration mentioned that when present gamers change to the brand new defined-contribution plan and agree to speculate their retirement accounts prudently, the orchestra will assure that their advantages at retirement would be the identical as what they’d have earned underneath the previous pension plan, which is being frozen.

That assure is not going to be out there to new gamers: Those employed after July 1, 2020, will instantly transfer into the brand new plan, during which 7.5 % of their base wage will likely be positioned into retirement accounts.

The different main situation was wages. The new contract will embody raises in every of the 5 years of the contract — of two, 2, 2.5, three.25 and three.5 % — which can carry the bottom wage to $181,272 within the remaining 12 months, administration mentioned.

The strike attracted the eye of orchestras nationwide, which have been underneath stress to curb bills, particularly throughout contract negotiations with their unions. While defined-benefit pensions have grown rarer within the non-public sector, they’re nonetheless the norm among the many nation’s main orchestras. So musicians from across the nation watched intently to see whether or not the Chicago gamers would achieve defending theirs.

The musicians’ union mentioned in an announcement that the brand new deal “preserves guaranteed minimum retirement benefits for current musicians and commits the parties to study options for providing retirement security for new hires.” In the previous, unions have been detest to simply accept contract adjustments that might defend present staff on the expense of latest hires, fearing that such offers would create two tiers of staff in the identical orchestra.

The strike was additionally notable for the weird involvement of the orchestra’s revered music director, Riccardo Muti, since conductors often keep away from seeming to take sides in labor disputes. But earlier than the strike started, Mr. Muti wrote to the orchestra’s board and administration, saying, “I am with the musicians,” and he later appeared with the gamers on the picket line.

While Mr. Muti publicly insisted that he merely needed the administration and the board to “listen more carefully to the needs of musicians who represent one of the greatest orchestras in the world,” the symbolism was arduous to overlook. He is scheduled to return to the orchestra’s podium this week, which added stress on either side to succeed in an settlement.

Steve Lester, a bassist within the orchestra who was the chairman of the musicians’ negotiating committee, mentioned in an announcement that “after about a year of negotiations, we are victorious in our efforts by protecting and maintaining our secure retirement and gaining lost ground on our annual salaries.”

Helen Zell, the chairwoman of the orchestra’s board, mentioned in an announcement that the brand new settlement “ensures that the musicians receive the outstanding compensation they deserve” whereas securing the orchestra’s “long-term financial sustainability through the retirement plan transition.”

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