Atlanta Symphony Musicians Ratify New Contract

When the two sides couldn't reach an agreement last month, players were locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center. With the season set to begin in just one week, the musicians approved a deal with $5 million in concessions.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Elsewhere in program, we're reporting on a deal that appears to be ending a lock out of NFL referees. There's some other labor disputes that appear to be ending without weeks of terrible calls.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its players ended a labor standoff and agreed to a new contract on Tuesday - and late yesterday, the Atlanta Symphony and its musicians did the same.

NPR's Kathy Lohr reports the Atlanta deal means the orchestra's 68th concert season will begin next week on schedule.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: The issue in Atlanta is a $20 million budget deficit that management said had to end. It closed the gap in part by cutting musicians' salaries. This orchestra has won 27 Grammy Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LOHR: When the two sides couldn't reach an agreement last month, players were locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center. With the season set to begin in just a week, the musicians approved a new contract with $5 million in concessions.

CHRISTINA SMITH: None of us are happy about this agreement. This is an enormous step backwards for this orchestra.

LOHR: Christina Smith is principal flute for the Atlanta Symphony. She says management is not taking deep cuts like the musicians are and she's concerned about the long term health of the orchestra.

SMITH: The players only consist of 28 percent of the ASO budget and it is wrong that we have been asked to shoulder the entire brunt of the deficit.

LOHR: The symphony will be reduced from 93 to 88 full time positions and the season has been shortened.

In a written statement, orchestra president, Stanley Romanstein acknowledged the orchestra is facing difficult and unfortunate economic realities, but he said the new agreement can provide the strong future that everyone desires. He says senior staff salaries are also being cut over the two year contract.

After the bitter fight, both sides say they just want to get back to making music.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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