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New West Musicians to Phase In 11% Raise

October 18, 2003|Rodney Bosch | Times Staff Writer

The New West Symphony has signed a new collective bargaining agreement that will increase pay for musicians by 11% over the three-year contract.

The 70-member orchestra, represented by the American Federation of Musicians Local 581, voted overwhelmingly to approve the pact. Members of the Thousand Oaks-based orchestra are mainly culled from freelance musicians from the Los Angeles area.

The contract, retroactive to Sept. 1, will be in effect through the 2005-06 performance season.

The symphony's previous contract paid principal musicians $165 for each rehearsal and $195 per concert. Sectional musicians are paid less. The new contract will increase pay for all musicians 2% the first year, 3% the second year and 6% the third year.

Both sides hailed the contract as a victory for all in a time of economic uncertainty.

"The union and the symphony worked well together to get what each side needed in a timely manner," said Mike Ley, vice president of Local 581.

The structure of the pact is crucial to maintaining New West's financial footing, Executive Director Kenneth Hopper said, as numerous orchestras across the country have either folded or trimmed performance schedules because of financial hardship.

While it is now stabilizing, Hopper said, New West Symphony has not been immune to the lagging economy, which affected ticket sales and fund-raising.

"Coming out of a downturn can take one to two years to get back to where we were," he said. "The symphony is on better financial footing by having a couple years of modest budget increase so we can accommodate a larger increase in the third year."

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