The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and CSO musicians have accepted a five-year contract that increases base pay by 14 percent through 2023 and transitions to a defined-contribution pension beginning in 2020. The agreement, which was ratified April 27 by Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10-208 of the American Federation of Musicians, and the CSOA Board of Trustees, ended a seven-week strike that began March 10. Concerts at Symphony Center resume May 1 with a recital by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Evgeny Kissin, followed by the CSO in two concerts May 2 and 4, conducted by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti (with a repeat May 3 at Wheaton College).

The agreement followed a daylong negotiating session April 26 mediated by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City Hall. The contract is retroactive to September 2018 and runs through September 2023.

“This new agreement reflects the excellence
 of the [CSO] and ensures that the musicians receive the outstanding compensation they deserve, while securing their and the CSOA’s long-term financial sustainability through the retirement plan transition,” said Helen Zell, chair of the CSOA’s Board of Trustees, in a statement. “On behalf of the entire board, we are proud of the teams who worked diligently to arrive at this day, and we look forward to returning to concerts this week.”

“Together, after months of discussion, hard work and compromise by both parties, we are looking forward to a path that builds on the extraordinary artistic legacy of the CSO and will bring the finest orchestral music through transformative performances, recordings, broadcasts and educational activities to audiences for generations to come,” said Jeff Alexander, CSOA president, in a statement. “I am pleased that we have come to an agreement on a new contract that benefits both the musicians and the CSOA.”

The contract calls for annual salary increases of 2 percent for two years, followed by increases of 2.5, 3.25 and 3.5 percent, which will ultimately raise the minimum base salary to $181,272 from the current $159,000, and represents a 14 percent increase over the contract’s term.

Beginning July 1, 2020, the retirement package will be transitioned from the current defined benefit to a defined-contribution plan, with the CSOA annually contributing 7.5 percent of a musician’s base salary, plus additional payments, for the plan’s first three years, based on a musician’s age and years of service. Also after July 1, 2020, all new hires will be on the defined-contribution plan.

There will be no changes to musicians’ health-care contributions over the life of the contract, and no changes to their comprehensive insurance coverage, deductibles and co-pays.

TOP: The CSO performs Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade during season-opening concerts in September. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018