Toronto symphony musicians win strike, 1999


The orchestra took a pay cut in 1992 and in 1995 were promised to get the salaries back up to a decent range. "There's been a lot of impatient musicians since '95 when we were promised to be given it back, the morale has been poor." Kathleen McLean, spokesperson for the musicians.
This strike demanded that salary raise.

Time period

25 September, 1999 to 15 December, 1999



Location City/State/Province

Toronto, Ontario
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Segment Length

13 days

Notes on Methods

Picketing lasted the whole eleven weeks of strike


Gary Labovitz, chairman of the players' negotiating committee, Jukka-Pekka Saraste TSO conductor


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Management of Toronto symphony orchestra

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

None known


Economic Justice



Group characterization


Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Other orchestras throughout Canada and the U.S.A. supported the strikers by walking picket lines, sending money, and offering joint benefit concerts.

Segment Length

13 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The new contract calls for a 29.8% salary increase over four years, with an annual salary of $69,000 (in Canadian dollars) in the fourth year.

Database Narrative

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra strike happened in 1999. It lasted for 11 weeks. This strike was developed due to prior pay cuts and minimal wages.

In 1991 the orchestra started developing financial problems. By 1992 pay cuts were made for both musicians and the management; otherwise, the orchestra would have had to file for bankruptcy. Musicians reluctantly accepted, hearing promises that the pay cuts would eventually be paid back in 1995 during the next labour discussions.

In 1993-94 the symphony fell over three million dollars in debt leading into the 1995 labour negotiations. Again the players settled for a four-year deal at the same wage because of this debt. 

Between 1992 and 1999, while the players in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) stood pat with their wages, the Montreal Symphony and National Arts Centre Orchestras successfully struck and zoomed past the TSO in terms of musicians’ salaries.

When 1999 came and the players were still earning nine percent less than they were in 1992, they, along with everyone else in the music industry knew it was time to make a stand. The musicians began their on 25 September 1999 and remained on strike for about 11 weeks ending on 15 December 1999.

The players viewed the strike as a victory after being rewarded a 29.8% salary increase over the next four years.  Despite being described as an outstanding orchestra, after the strike the TSO continued to be in financial turmoil and continues to struggle presently.


Flynn, Andrew. "Toronto Symphony and Players Remain Deadlocked." N.p., 15 Nov. 1999. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <>.

Green, Robert E. "Toronto Symphony Players Celebrate End to Strike." ProQuest. N.p., 9 Dec. 1999. Web. 05 Mar. 2013. <>.

Leibowitz, Leonard. "Seeds Were Sown Years Earlier For 1999 Toronto Symphony Strike | Associated Musicians of Greater New York." Associated Musicians of Greater New York. Allegro, Dec. 1999. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Rinaldo, Sandie. "For the First Time in History, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Has Been Hit by a Strike." ProQuest. N.p., 25 Sept. 1999. Web. 05 Mar. 2013. <>.

Toronto Symphony Negotiations Hit Sour Note." Online posting. CBC News. N.p., 10 Nov. 2000. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

"Toronto Symphony Orchestra." - The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica-Dominion, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.

Additional Notes

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Jocelyn Legault, 05/03/2013