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Detroit Symphony musicians agree to return to work, but want binding arbitration

March 1, 2011 |  1:10 pm


One of the longest-running music strikes in recent memory appears to be drawing to a close. Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who have been walking the picket line for more than five months, said on Tuesday that they have agreed to return to work without a new contract.

The musicians issued a press release saying they have voted on a plan that involves returning to work under conditions that the orchestra's management previously imposed. It remains unclear if those conditions refer to management's proposal in January to reduce proposed pay cuts to approximately 20%, down from 30%.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the musicians said they would return without a contract if management accepts their plan for binding arbitration, which would include three arbitrators, according to a report in the Detroit News.

Principal horn player Karl Pituch told the Detroit News that the musicians are ready to come back to work once there's an agreement on the arbitration.

Detroit Symphony musicians walked off the job on Oct. 4, in protest of management's decision to implement more than 30% pay cuts in first-year base pay. Both sides have met to negotiate a possible settlement, but talks have fallen through a number of times.

Still unknown is what will happen to the orchestra's current 2010-11 season. The orchestra canceled the remainder of the season in February after musicians rejected the offer to mitigate the severity of the proposed pay cuts to about 20%.

The Detroit Symphony has been suffering from declining donations in recent years. In December, the organization reported an $8.8-million deficit for the recent fiscal year.


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Photo: Protesters in support of musicians that are in contract talks with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra march outside of the Max Fischer Music Center in Detroit. Credit: Kimberly P. Mitchell / Associated Press