The musicians said no further meetings with management had been scheduled, but both sides said they remained committed to talks to end the more than four-month strike. The musicians said the 3-year, $36 million proposal -- dubbed a final offer by management -- would have saddled them with unacceptably higher heath care deductibles and travel costs.
"Today's decision reflects our deep disappointment at the inability of the executives to be upfront and honest with people," Gordon Stump, president of the Detroit Federation of Musicians, said in a statement.
Even before the strike, the nationally acclaimed orchestra had seen its donations fall, endowment shrink and ticket sales soften as the state's auto industry shed jobs and plants and experienced bankruptcy reorganizations. DSO Board Chairman Stanley Frankel called the rejection "disappointing news," and the effect of the strike on the orchestra's economic condition will be reflected in future contract offers.
"Even our last proposal would have caused the DSO to face multi-million deficits for the foreseeable future," he said. "We were willing to make that commitment in order to settle this strike and return our musicians to the stage."
The symphony responded to the vote results released Saturday by saying it has released artists and conductors from their contracts and suspended the rest of the orchestral season, which was to have run through June 5. Management said a settlement in the strike that began Oct. 4 could lead to some concerts being rescheduled, or to a 2011 summer season.
The contract rejection came after a week in which mediators, including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Dan Gilbert, the Detroit-based owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, tried to broker a deal.
Levin, in a news release, said he remains convinced a deal can be reached.
"We will reach out to the two parties and hope both are willing to continue talking and to consider compromise proposals that would meet our two bottom line goals of preserving a great orchestra in Detroit and doing so in a way that is fiscally responsible," he said.
The latest offer included $34 million plus $2 million in optional funding for community and educational programs, DSO spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said. The symphony described its offer as a nationally competitive, comprehensive compensation package that includes health benefits proposed by the union.
Management has been seeking deep pay cuts because of the symphony's deficit, and delivered what it described as a final offer on Tuesday. Musicians have offered to accept some pay cuts, but Detroit Federation of Musicians union leaders this week had urged members to turn down the proposal.
Management declared an impasse Sept. 1 and began implementing a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. Musicians had offered a 22 percent reduction to $82,000.
The latest proposal, the symphony said, would have included $80,200 base salary for the 2012 fiscal year plus $7,100 for optional community and educational work. The total including the $7,100 in optional money would have risen to $87,900 in the 2013 fiscal year and $88,300 in the final year.
The musicians, however, said the rate for musicians would be as low as $5 per hour for participating in every community outreach effort. They also said the full orchestra wouldn't be able to play at as many community events.
Despite the concert cancellations, the orchestra said the Max M. Fisher Music Center, which includes the symphony's home at Orchestra Hall, will continue in its role as a cultural, community, educational and performing arts anchor. Shows will include jazz performances from Bobby McFerrin, youth concerts and other activities.
"This institution will not be silent," Frankel said.