Chicago Symphony musicians go on strike

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association said orchestra musicians went on strike Saturday after rejecting proposals for a three-year contract.

The contract would have provided musicians with a minimum base weekly salary of $2,795 in the first year, $2,835 in the second and $2,910 in the third, the organization said. The previous weekly base minimum salary is $2,785.

“We regret any inconvenience the musicians’ strike causes our audiences and patrons and assure you that the Association remains committed to reaching a fair agreement,” Deborah Rutter, president of the Orchestra Association, said in a statement Saturday. “Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians are world class professionals, and deserve every dollar and every benefit offered in this contract.

“At the same time, we must soundly manage the finances of the Association.”

Officials with the Chicago Federation of Musicians, which represents the musicians, did not immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press for comment Saturday night.

The previous collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight Sept. 16, the Orchestra Association said.

Musicians and management had previously agreed to start the 2012-2013 season this week while contract negotiations that started this summer continued. Rehearsals and concerts were held earlier this week as scheduled.

But the organization said musicians left the negotiating table Saturday, rejecting the association’s final offer, and “proceeded to strike.”

“We have had 11 negotiating sessions and we have productively negotiated work rules and scheduling and such issues,” Rutter told the AP in a phone interview Saturday night. “But at the end of the day today, we could not come to an agreement on compensation and health benefits.”

An orchestra performance set for Saturday night at Symphony Center was canceled because of the strike.

“We were very sorry to have to cancel this evening’s concert,” Rutter told the AP. “We had some patrons who didn’t hear the news come to the hall.”

She said those who bought tickets can exchange them for a future performance, make a donation to the symphony or get a refund.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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