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(PC: Krista Schlueter/NY Times)

New York City Ballet and Orchestra Agree to New Contract

The ballet company and its orchestra have settled on a new three-year contract, which includes compensation increases


The new collective bargaining agreement between the New York City Ballet (NYCB) and its 63-member orchestra comes after months of negotiations once their previous contract expired on August 31, 2023.

At the time, the musicians claimed they went without pay for 15 months due to the pandemic-related wage cuts. Represented by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the musicians also rallied outside Lincoln Center ahead of NYCB’s 2023 season opener and voted to authorize a strike if negotiations stalled.

The orchestra argued that NYCB’s steady financial status had not justified its alleged pay cuts to the orchestra. The company reportedly had an endowment of $263 million when wage cuts were imposed in 2021 and received over $10 million in government pandemic support.

In response, NYCB’s management had relegated the union’s claims as “misleading” and that the musicians’ requests would have been a risk to the company financially.

Expected to be ratified by AFM Local 802, the new three-year contract includes a 22.3% total compensation increase over the contract period — involving a 13% wage increase over three years — and a restoration of a 9.3% pandemic-related salary reduction. 

Other benefits for the orchestra members include several non-economic gains relating to working conditions, plus “a robust health insurance alternative…[replacing] the orchestra’s participation in the NYCB’s own plan,” wrote AFM’s Local 802 president, Sara Cutler.  

The musicians’ healthcare plan would “continue to be funded by N.Y.C.B. while also providing the musicians with greater independence to choose their own plan,” the NYCB and orchestra told The New York Times

As outlined by International Musician, more contract updates relating to the audition process included: defining terms for the committee’s composition for violin section auditions, how musicians may withdraw from an audition committee, musicians’ appointments without audition, secret ballots for all rounds, and when and how audition trials may occur.

“[We] are happy to announce a new three-year deal for the New York City Ballet Orchestra,” Cutler wrote in her president’s report. “It was a long, tough negotiation that produced an excellent result for the orchestra, including healthy raises and a robust health insurance alternative,” she added. “Congratulations to the NYCB Orchestra Committee, the entire ballet orchestra, 802’s legal team, and us!”

“The marriage of music and dance is a hallmark of N.Y.C.B.,” the company and the orchestra said in a joint statement. “We are thrilled that this agreement has been finalized and we look forward to a successful season featuring our wonderful musicians and dancers who are among the greatest performers in the world.”

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