Houston Symphony and musicians agree to new four-year contract
The Houston Symphony and its musicians have agreed to a new four-year contract that will extend through the orchestra's centennial season.
The agreement, which was ratified by the musicians union today and the Houston Symphony Society's Board of Trustees 11 days ago, will begin Sunday and expire on Oct. 4, 2014.
Under terms of the new contract, the musicians' weekly scale will remain flat at $1,575 during the 2010-11 season, but with one week of unpaid furlough versus two weeks last season. Over the next three years, there will be no furlough weeks and salaries will increase an average of 2.5 percent each season, reaching $1,690 per week on April 6, 2014.
The negotiations, which began in mid-July and ended with a tentative agreement in mid-September, were contentious at times. But Houston Symphony executive director/CEO Mark Hanson believes a greater level of trust and respect was achieved between the orchestra, management and the board.
"It was a very constructive, positive and respectful discussion over the last couple of months," Hanson told CultureMap. "It will set the institution up to achieve our artistic and financial goals over the next few years. In this four-year contract, we have struck the right balance. I hope it will support growth of all sorts."
After taking the job last spring, Hanson acknowledged contract negotiations would set the tone of his tenure. While he said he had to find a "middle ground" between the symphony's aspirations and its budget, he hinted that he wouldn't be asking orchestra members to take a huge pay cut or layoffs.
And they didn't. The minimum annual salary for musicians is $80,325 during the first year of the agreement, rising to $82,160 in the second year, $84,500 in the third year, and $86,840 in the fourth year of the contract.
The minimum orchestra size remains at 84 under the new contract. The symphony currently has 86 members.
Contract negotiations have been relatively amicable since 2003, when symphony musicians went on strike — the only time that has happened since the orchestra was founded in 1913.
In the past, contracts have been struck in three year increments, but this one was extended to four. Besides taking the symphony through its centennial year, it means negotiators will have an extra year before they return to the bargaining table to determine the next contract.
"When you reach final agreement at 5 in the morning after being up all night, that's very appealing," Hanson said.