- Associated Press - Thursday, February 17, 2011

SOUTHFIELD, MICH. (AP) - Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians said Thursday that they will vote on whether to accept management’s final labor contract and to get back to work after a months-long strike that has threated to shut down the entire concert season.

Musician Karl Pituch said at a news conference that the Detroit Federation of Musicians members would vote online Friday evening and Saturday, and that the vote will be subject to a 72-hour ratification process.

Striking musicians met Thursday afternoon to hear the recommendations of union leaders.

The symphony said Wednesday that management wanted an answer by Thursday on a final offer delivered earlier in the week to the musicians’ negotiating committee. On Thursday, symphony spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said management planned to await the musicians’ weekend vote before making any decisions, including about whether to cancel the rest of the season.

“We respect their voting process and we will not take action until the members have time to respond to our final offer,” Weigandt said.

The walkout began Oct. 4 and many concerts already have been cancelled. The season is scheduled to end June 5, and an agreement could preserve the remaining season.

Symphony management declared an impasse Sept. 1 and began implementing a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. Musicians had offered a 22 percent reduction in the first year, to $82,000, which would increase in subsequent years.

Violinist Joe Goldman said the latest proposals from the musicians and management have “substantial differences,” but he noted that management’s latest offer had changed from its past ones. He said wages and the weeks for working, for example, were different.

“We have been working tirelessly along with the mediators to reach an agreement,” Goldman said.

Mediators including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, met with representatives of both sides on Friday and Sunday to try to reach a deal, Pituch said.

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Associated Press writer David Runk in Detroit contributed to this report.


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