Philadelphia Orchestra and Musicians Reach Contract Deal

After months of wrangling at the negotiating table, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the union representing its musicians have reached a deal for a new contract.

The three-year contract, which the members of the American Federation of Musicians,Local 77,ratified on Saturday, includes salary raises of nearly 16 percent over three years, a central demand of the musicians, who had argued that they were underpaid compared with other leading ensembles.

The musicians’ union praised the agreement, which it said also included pay raises for substitutes as well as a requirement that the orchestra increase the number of musicians it hires each year to fill vacancies. The base salary for musicians in the orchestra in the 2022-23 season was $152,256, including compensation for recordings.

“We are an ensemble, and we stuck together and refused to accept substandard deal after substandard deal,” David Fay, a double bass player since 1984 and a union leader, said in a statement. “This contract is a victory for the present and future for the Philadelphia Orchestra and its world-class musicians.”

The contract was the first that the orchestra has negotiated since the coronavirus pandemic, which put financial strains on the ensemble, forcing the cancellation of more than 200 concerts and resulting in the loss of about $26 million in ticket sales and performance fees.

“Our joint challenge was to find a new and financially responsible path forward that recognizes and furthers the placement of the Philadelphia Orchestra as one of the world’s greatest musical ensembles,” said Ralph W. Muller and Michael D. Zisman, who lead the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Kimmel Center Inc., a joint entity that oversees the orchestra.

The dispute grew heated over the past several months as orchestra members rejected several proposals from management. A vote in August to authorize a strike, if needed, won the support of 95 percent of those participating. Concerts proceeded as usual and talks continued through the expiration of the old contract in early September.

The orchestra has gone through other painful periods in recent decades. It declared bankruptcy in 2011 after the financial crisis but has since balanced its budget and worked to rebuild. Despite expense cuts and bankruptcy, that has not been easy: In 2016, the musicians held a brief strike that began on the night of the orchestra’s season-opening gala.

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