Philly orchestra, musicians approve new contract

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Orchestra said a new collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the orchestra association and its musicians union.

The tentative agreement reached last week has been ratified by players and approved by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association board. It will go Friday to the judge in the orchestra’s bankruptcy case who has the final say, the orchestra said in a statement released Thursday.

In April, the renowned 111-year-old symphony became the first major U.S. orchestra to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Orchestra president and chief executive officer Allison Vulgamore said the agreement calls for cutting salaries and moving musicians’ pensions to a defined contribution plan from the current defined benefit plans. She declined to provide specifics on Thursday, shortly before the orchestra’s opening night concert and gala.

A defined benefit plan provides a guaranteed monthly benefit for workers, while a defined contribution plan shifts responsibility for retirement planning and investing to workers, but doesn’t guarantee a specific amount of money based on years of service.

Vulgamore praised the musicians for making sacrifices that will help the orchestra achieve long-term financial stability.

A call to the Philadelphia Musicians’ Union for comment was not immediately returned.

A day earlier, the national pension fund representing the musicians expressed opposition to the contract because it ends the orchestra’s participation in the pension fund.

“In light of the trustees’ responsibility under federal pension law, the fund currently sees no alternative to litigation to protect the interests of all of its participating musicians,” Alan Raphael of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension Fund said in a written statement released Wednesday.

The $1.7 billion pension fund, which represents about 50,000 musicians nationwide, alleges the orchestra has misrepresented its financial situation to avoid as much as $35 million in obligations to the fund.

Vulgamore declined to respond to the pension fund’s allegations or its announced intention to pursue legal action.

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Online:

Philadelphia Orchestra: http://www.philorch.org

Pension fund: http://www.afm-epf.org

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