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WQXR Features

Detroit Symphony Musicians, Management Reach Tentative Deal

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Six months after a musician work stoppage shut down the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, bargainers for the musicians and symphony management have reached a tentative deal.

The terms of the agreement will not be made public until the union has voted, which should take place within the next 72 hours. If approved, the orchestra could resume performances at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall as early as this weekend with music director Leonard Slatkin.

The Symphony has been shut down since October 4, when musicians overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer. Since then, 75 percent of the season as been canceled. With a settlement, the final two months of the season could be salvaged, as would the orchestra’s summer season.

In a series of marathon bargaining sessions this weekend, musicians and management met with mediator Matt Cullen, chief operating officer of Rock Enterprises. According to the Detroit Free Press, the two sides have arrived at a $36.3-million framework for a three-year deal, including $2 million earmarked for public outreach initiatives.

The Detroit strike has hinged on the size of pay cuts aimed at stabilizing the immensely troubled finances of the DSO, which has been drowning in more than $19 million in losses since 2008 and $54 million in real-estate debt on the Max M. Fisher Music Center, its performance hall and education facility.

Management has sought significant cuts in base pay from musicians while redefining job descriptions to include more outreach, teaching and chamber concerts. Musicians have countered with proposed cuts of their own but have argued that management’s offer – which slashed base pay by 30 percent – would downgrade the quality of the orchestra and make it harder attract and retain the best musicians.

This is the DSO’s fifth strike since 1969 but the first time the orchestra has suspended an entire season.

More details to follow