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Striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra Musicians Approve 5-Year Contract

CHICAGO (CBS) — Musicians and management at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra approved a new five-year contract and will return to work, after a nearly seven-week strike.

The Chicago Federation of Musicians voted unanimously Saturday to approve a five-year deal, which includes a cumulative 13.25% increase in current salaries.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association said the deal also includes an agreement to switch from a defined benefits retirement plan to a defined contributions pension system, starting in July 2020. All new hires starting July 1, 2020, will go directly to the new defined contributions plan.

The two sides said the contract includes no changes to the cost of the musicians' health benefits.

The CSOA board also voted to approve the new contract on Saturday.

The musicians and management reached an agreement on the new contract Friday, a day after accepting Mayor Rahm Emanuel's offer to mediate negotiations.

"After about a year of negotiations we are victorious in our efforts by protecting and maintaining our secure retirement and gaining lost ground on our annual salaries," said Steve Lester, bassist and Chair of the Musicians Negotiating Committee. "The Musicians voted overwhelming for a fair and competitive compensation and retirement benefit plan that will ensure the excellence and sustainability of one of the finest orchestra's in the world.  And thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his involvement, the Musicians are looking forward at last to performing once again at Symphony Center before the world's best audience."

The musicians said they still plan to perform three free concerts that had been scheduled during the strike, including a full orchestra performance at Steinmetz  High School on Tuesday, and a string quartet concert at Garfield Park Conservatory on Friday.

CSO musicians went on strike March 11, picketing daily outside Symphony Center downtown.

The striking musicians received support from congressmen, musical theater performers and their own maestro, renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti.

Emanuel thanked both sides for coming together to end the strike.

"This is a fair deal for the Symphony and its musicians, and a great deal for the future of one of our city's greatest cultural institutions," he said.

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