Pittsburgh Orchestra Strike Settled After 55 Days

Nov 23, 2016

Strike signs rest against the brick exterior of Heinz Hall where musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have been on strike for more than seven weeks.
Credit Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra ended their strike Wednesday.

After months of tense negotiations, musicians and management agreed to a new five-year contract, which calls for a 10.5 percent salary cut in the first year. 

Management said a contribution by an anonymous donor will bring the actual wage cut to 7.5 percent.

That’s down from management’s initial offer of a 15 percent pay cut which prompted the strike in September.

The new contract also includes a modest salary increase in subsequent years, and retains all 99 symphony musician and two librarian positions.

The administrative budget has been cut by $800,000 due to the elimination of 10 staff positions and a reduction in CEO compensation.

“We recognize that there is a tremendous amount of work ahead for all of us,” said Melia Tourangeau, President and CEO. “We will be depending on the ongoing passion and generosity of the Pittsburgh community to help us as we continue to implement our five-year strategic plan to help ensure long-term stability for the Pittsburgh Symphony.”

The two sides began negotiations in June. Federal mediators were later brought in.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have also met with both sides in an attempt to mediate.

Negotiations broke down when management put forth their final offer of a 15 percent pay cut and staffing decrease for the musicians. Management had cited a projected $20 million deficit, which the musicians claimed was overstated. Tourangeau said the musicians and staffs' concessions bring that projected deficit to $18 million dollars over the next five years.

Management said the deficit was projected despite record breaking ticket and subscription sales in the past year, and increased fundraising efforts.

Musicians’ base salary will return to the pre-strike level of $107,000 in the fifth year of the contract.

“These were painful and substantial concessions,” said Micah Howard, chair of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Committee. “But we agreed to work with management to face our financial challenges head-on. Both parties came together in the spirit of true compromise, to ensure that we can resume performing at Heinz Hall."

The Symphony will hold two free “thank you” concerts in December to celebrate the return to Heinz Hall.

Its popular, and lucrative, annual holiday pops concerts will also be back on next month.