Arts & Culture

Fort Worth Symphony musicians, management continue contract negotiations

Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the Fort Worth Symphony at Bass Hall.
Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the Fort Worth Symphony at Bass Hall. Star-Telegram

Two days of contract talks between the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and its musicians’ union ended with the performers rejecting a second counteroffer, union President Ken Krause said Wednesday.

“After months of bargaining, management’s proposal has barely changed — they are still demanding givebacks including cutting pay by almost 9 percent,” Krause, who heads Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians, wrote in an email.

Symphony President and CEO Amy Adkins asserted earlier that her original counteroffer of reduced paid vacation time would amount to a 6.5 percent drop.

The symphony had rejected the union’s opening offer of $3.5 million in wage increases spread over three years. It also turned down a revised offer by musicians that postponed the raises until after a one-year freeze.

We call on management to produce a comprehensive fundraising plan, along with a contract proposal promoting growth, not cuts

Kenneth Krause, president, Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians

Neither side would provide details of the management’s latest counteroffer. The latest round of negotiations ended Tuesday and will resume in two weeks.

Krause noted that the musicians accepted a 13.5 percent salary reduction to help the orchestra in 2010, asserting that adjusted inflation had increased impact. The musicians’ recently expired agreement, signed in 2012, included a 3.5 percent salary increase over the life of the contract and a 46-week concert season, plus increased flexibility in paid and unpaid leave in summer.

Orchestra management had sought to reduce the paid season by three weeks, which would not have affected the number of performances. Without any cuts, a musician’s average salary currently is $62,000.

Adkins has called for reduced pay, citing nagging deficits of $200,000 to $458,000 in recent years, and a $5 million drop in the orchestra’s endowment funds over the past seven years. Major corporate donors also have been lost because of mergers and takeovers, she said this month. And increased ticket sales have not made up the losses.

Krause said Wednesday: “We musicians understand and are concerned about the financial challenges facing our orchestra. That’s why we proposed a one-year pay freeze.

“We call on management to produce a comprehensive fundraising plan, along with a contract proposal promoting growth, not cuts.”

In a brief telephone interview Tuesday, Adkins said there had been some give and take on both sides but nothing major.

“We have listened and made some changes,” Adkins said of her revised counteroffer. “We’re making progress on both sides. There are things that we have been able to agree to, and some things they’ve been able to agree to.”

But she added: “I would have liked to be making major progress. … It’s a little slower than I would like.”

Earlier, Krause blamed the orchestra’s financial woes on management’s inability to secure sufficient donations, comparing it unfavorably to TCU and other local institutions.

The musician association’s Facebook page quoted a nonmember named Jack Rogers as saying that the Fort Worth Symphony not only raised far less than orchestras in suburban Richardson and Plano during the recent North Texas Giving Day, but also ranked behind a bat sanctuary and a feral cat society.

My staff and I focus on dozens of fundraising efforts throughout the entire season

Amy Adkins, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra president and CEO

Adkins, who headed fundraising as the orchestra’s vice president of development for nine years before her promotion in 2011, responded to the jibes with a written statement to the Star-Telegram:

“My staff and I focus on dozens of fundraising efforts throughout the entire season. Our approach is targeted and ongoing, and we are raising money every single day.

“Last season, we succeeded in raising $5.2 million from generous individuals, companies and foundations. This was $300,000 more than the previous season. The results speak for themselves, and I am proud of what we have accomplished.”

Negotiations will resume Nov. 3 with two days scheduled for talks.

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