The Spokane Symphony musicians and board of directors announced Tuesday they reached an agreement settling a monthlong strike.
After a weekend of intense bargaining, the musicians voted Monday night to approve a two-year contract that includes an 11 percent pay cut and three weeks of personal leave. The pay cut comes in the form of a reduction in guaranteed services, which include rehearsals, concerts and educational events.
“It was a difficult, somber time,” Adam Wallstein, chairman of the Orchestra Committee, said of the vote. “Basically the task before the musicians last night was to choose between two incredibly painful options.”
The cut means the 36 core musicians will make about $15,539 a year in 160 guaranteed services – down from about $17,460 in 180 services.
The three-week allowance of personal leave can be used for whatever musicians need, including pursuing outside work, Wallstein said. The increased leave played a large role in the agreement.
The announcement comes just two days before “The Nutcracker” is set to open. Symphony management said last week it would use recorded music for the performance if an agreement was not reached in time.
“It would have been a profound shame for the Spokane Symphony to not properly join our community in celebrating the Christmas and holiday season,” Wallstein said. “The fact that we will indeed be back on stage as originally scheduled and programmed is something everyone can look forward to.”
The contract was negotiated in meetings last week between the Spokane Symphony Society and Local 105 of the American Federation of Musicians, which went on strike Nov. 3 after failed negotiations that began in March. Five concerts were canceled while the musicians were on strike.
Just prior to the strike, symphony management proposed a 13.3 percent pay cut in a contract that had no second-year guarantees. The musicians said then that they would concede to a 6.6 percent cut but opposed what they called a “restrictive” leave policy that hindered their ability to find other work.
“This has never been a battle between good and evil, but rather a discussion, a debate, about where and how to best balance fiscal stewardship and artistic excellence,” Wallstein said. “For now we’ve decided to put those differences aside, but these discussions will continue. As we move forward as an organization and build on the energy, awareness and support of the community, we’re confident we can look forward to a brighter future.”
Board President Peter Moye said reaching an agreement was difficult for all involved.
“I don’t know whether anybody weathers this situation well,” he said. He added, “The board is very happy to have the musicians back. We understood their needs. We also have a fiduciary duty to the people that donate to us.”
Moye implored the community to continue the support they expressed for the symphony during the strike.
“This is a community asset,” he said. “It’s now time for the community to come and support this organization and keep this building open, the musicians on stage and the music going.”