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Striking Detroit orchestra musicians mull contract offer

DETROIT (Reuters) - Negotiators for striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians recommended rejection of a final management contract offer that they said would cut their compensation by more than a quarter.

Members of the orchestra, who have been on strike since October, met for two hours on Thursday to comb the final offer, said violinist and committee member Joe Goldman.

"We've been around the top 10 among American orchestras for the last four years," Goldman said. "This would put us around 20th ... in terms of annual scale wages."

A final vote is due Saturday.

Orchestra management and the 80 musicians have been tussling over issues of pay and how much of the orchestra's time should be devoted to community outreach.

The contract put forth by management this week also includes higher medical insurance costs, Goldman said. For example, deductibles will jump from $250 for a single person to over $3,000.

The lower pay and higher medical costs will make it far more difficult for the orchestra to attract the best talent, the union said. A representative for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra could not be immediately reached.

If the union rejects the contract, they hope to go back to the negotiating table with management and hammer out an agreement, Goldman said. He declined to detail what the union has proposed, but said their plan also includes a deep pay cut, although not as dramatic as the cuts proposed by management.

Musicians have not been paid by the orchestra during the strike. They are paid $300 a week from the union's strike fund and some are playing in other orchestras. Under the old contract, musicians were paid $2,020 a week on average.

Two musicians have accepted offers from other orchestras, Goldman said.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman, Editing by Greg McCune)