Striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra rejects offer Monday night

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Striking musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra received a “last, best and final offer” from management over the weekend. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians voted Monday night to reject what CSO management deemed their “last, best and final offer.”

“We are extremely disappointed that management refuses to hear the musicians’ concerns about a secure retirement for the musicians and a secure future for the CSO,” Steve Lester, chairman of the musicians’ negotiating committee, said in a statement Monday night.

A representative for the CSO did not respond to a request for comment Monday night.

The musicians, who have been on strike since March 10, said management’s previously proposed salary increases were “inadequate.” The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association also wants to replace musicians’ traditional pension plan with a defined contribution plan.

In a letter sent to the musicians and media last month, CSOA President Jeff Alexander outlined management’s proposed contract — including increases in the annual pay base during the proposed contract from $160,606 to $167,094.

Alexander also said the union was seeking an annual base pay of up to $178,000, which was “unreasonable” and not part of a “sustainable future” for the orchestra.

Also at issue is management’s proposal to change the musicians’ pension to a direct contribution plan from a defined benefit plan.

Musicians say the proposal would unfairly shift the investment risk in retirement benefits to them. But according to the CSOA, the defined benefit plan isn’t financially feasible.

Scheduled orchestra performances through April 9 have been canceled or postponed.

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